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Government Property Strategy – Capitalising on changing demand

The new Government Property Strategy (GPS), published on 31 August sets a long-term direction for the public estate, whilst recognising that service transformation will continue to change the demand for space. This is not just offices. The pandemic highlighted how services to the public can be delivered differently, including in Job Centres, Courts and the NHS. The next few years should see that learning embedded into new operating models and lead to changes in space requirements.

These changes should result in a reduced government footprint. The government estate is currently over 150 million m2, costing over £20bn per year to run.

The GPS highlights the opportunity to create a Smaller, Better and Greener estate – describing the anticipated reduction in footprint alongside improvements in quality. This means tackling the decades of under-investment which have led to parts of the estate no longer being fit for purpose. Furthermore, the built environment could make a significant contribution to net zero carbon (and reducing fuel bill pressures) through a combination of:

  • less space and more efficient use of existing space;
  • more sustainable construction; and
  • reduced consumption through more efficient plant and machinery, changes in user behaviours, supported by insights and better management through building technology.

Achieving these better and greener goals will require investment. The GPS provides a narrative to link estates savings to the investment needed to improve outcomes. Government bodies need to start work now to prepare that case for the next Spending Review, against a backdrop of cuts. The first step is to improve the evidence base.

The GPS also acknowledges the contribution that government properties make to places: regenerating surplus sites, providing services to communities, and through location of public sector jobs. It’s too soon to know how the new Prime Minister will take forward Levelling Up but recent statements from Jacob Rees-Mogg have confirmed the aim to reduce the size of the government footprint in Whitehall.

Implementation is as important as the strategy itself. The Office for Government Property sets the strategy, but delivery is dependent on all the bodies across government who hold property. The government estate is increasingly being concentrated into portfolios, with the Government Property Agency leading on offices, MoD on defence, etc. This allows greater specialism and supports sharing of space. The annual State of the Estate report provides an opportunity to see how each of the portfolios is progressing against these smaller, better, greener goals.

Link to GPS - Government Property Strategy 2022-2030 - GOV.UK (