Government hubs: Transforming the working lives of civil servants across the UK

7 Apr 2017

Policy area: Regional

Anne Carter-Gray of the Government Hubs Programme summarises the discussions with the Government Property Unit at the BPF regional forums this spring, and how the programme will work with the real estate industry.

The Government Hubs Programme is a once in a generation opportunity for government to revolutionise the way in which the Civil Service works. By consolidating government offices into multi-departmental hubs in cities across the UK and by introducing ‘smart working’ practices to government, we will be delivering taxpayer efficiencies as well as improving the surroundings and productivity of civil servants.

Following the announcement of our first multi-departmental hub in East London in December, we are on course to announce several more hubs in cities across the UK this year.

Given the size and significance of this programme, we were delighted to join the British Property Federation’s regional roundtables last month to talk to the local property markets about our plans. There has been a lot of interest in our hubs, not least because in many cases we are overseeing the largest commercial requirements that some cities have seen for years.

A recurring theme at every roundtable was what the regenerative effects of our hubs would be and the subsequent development opportunities. Our hubs will act as the catalyst for further growth in towns and cities, bringing with them increased footfall, which will attract other occupiers.

We are conscious that we must deliver value for money to the taxpayer, whilst also creating places in which civil servants actually want to work. It is important for us that we do not lease buildings with no amenities nearby, so we will be actively seeking areas that have thoughtfully planned public realm and with a strong food and beverage offering - it is important that there is somewhere nice for civil servants have somewhere nice to buy their lunch! It was great to see developers taking a keen interest in what they might be able to offer the area that we choose to occupy.

We also had a lot of questions about how we will balance the benefit of the new hubs with the impact that vacating buildings could have on more peripheral areas.

Lease expiry has to be the main driver on timings for hubs, but we have carried out local economic impact analyses, which show that there is a relatively small negative impact as a result of office closures. The mapping that we do is essentially driven by demand, and our hubs will be in city centres with excellent transport infrastructure, which will offer good commuter links, and also tie in with the government's green agenda as civil servants will be able to travel to work by public transport. We will also be creating ‘mini hubs’ to accommodate staff who live far from city centres.

While a key driver of this programme is savings - we expect the Government Hubs Programme to deliver several millions of pounds worth of savings over the course of a decade – we are pleased to see that the development industry shares our vision for the programme to boost to growth, regeneration, jobs and local economies in every corner of the UK.

Collaboration with the private sector is critical to the success of the hubs programme (we recently won the EG collaboration award), and there are plenty of opportunities for joint working (business opportunities will be advertised on the Crown Commercial Service website).

It was fantastic to see such engagement and enthusiasm from BPF members at the meetings, and we look forward to further engaging with the industry as we continue to roll out this ambitious programme throughout the country.

Ann Carter-Gray, SRO/ Programme Director – Government Hubs