The Department for Culture, Media and Sport and 24 of the organisations it sponsors spend over £40 million a year on 95 offices across England. In a report to Parliament today Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office, says that better management of this office accommodation could lead to savings.
The Department sponsors a wide range of organisations, including grant making and regulatory bodies, lottery distributors and others delivering services directly to the public. Some organisations, including the Department itself, have already made or are planning changes to their offices. But the NAO identified wide variations in the costs and use of office space, and suggest that savings of some £4 million can be made, depending on local property market conditions and the terms of leases. The NAO found that on average it costs £8,500 a year to provide accommodation for each employee although the cost varies from £10,000 in London to £4,300 in Yorkshire and The Humber.
The NAO report says that if organisations are to reduce the costs they first need to find out how well they are using their existing space and how much their offices cost. Across the sector, space for each person is some 16 square metres, which is within a recognised good practice range of 12 to 17 square metres. But at a regional level the average varies from 14 square metres in London to over 25 square metres in the East Midlands. The costs also differ across the country with offices paying an average rent of £400 a square metre in London compared to averages of between £100 and £200 in other regions.
The report recommends that organisations should establish measures of performance for their offices and benchmark their costs and use of space. It encourages them to share information across the sector and take action where necessary to reduce costs and use space more effectively. The report also recommends that organisations should consider improving their procurement of office services (for example maintenance, cleaning, security and utilities) and look at options for relocation; for sharing offices with others; for sub-letting surplus office space; and for re-organising existing space in to more efficient layouts.