Jacob Rees-Mogg to sell off offices as civil servants continue to work from home

Jacob Rees-Mogg plans to sell off government offices in London in a move to cut costs as civil servants continue to work from home.

The minister for Brexit opportunities and government efficiency is organising property sales and a reduction in operating costs totalling £2bn as expensive office space in the capital is “under-utilised”, The Telegraph reports.

The strategy, set to be published next week, comes as Mr Rees-Mogg has called for Civil Service staff numbers to be cut by a fifth, and after his repeated criticism of civil servants continuing to work from home after the pandemic.

The proposal includes selling £1.5 billion of property over three years, with staff moving to a new network of government “hubs”, and £500 million worth of savings through lowering operating costs, updating energy sources and cutting spending on leases.

The plans are part of the existing Places for Growth programme, which aims to shift 22,000 Civil Service roles out of the capital by 2030.

Speaking about the plans, Mr Rees-Mogg told The Telegraph: “We have seen over the last year that expensive office space in central London has been under-utilised. Why should the taxpayer be made to fork out for half-empty buildings?”

“We are cutting the cost of the public estate so that we can return money to the taxpayer. All spending on government property needs to be justified.”

Mr Rees-Mogg added moving Civil Service jobs out of London would “allow greater savings and mean the government is closer to the communities it serves”.

The Conservative minister, who is backing Liz Truss in the ongoing Conservative leadership election, has repeatedly challenged the Civil Service on its operations, and in April came under fire for leaving bizarre notes on empty desks in an apparent attack on those working from home.

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Mr Rees-Mogg wrote to cabinet colleagues calling on them to oversee the “rapid return” of workers to their offices.

He instructed ministers to send a “clear message” to civil servants on the importance of returning to their workplaces and circulated a league table of staff attendance, adding that he would visit departments with lower attendance figures to “ensure we are making the efficient use of the central London estate”.

Commenting on Rees-Mogg’s efficiency campaign at the time, the general secretary of the FDA union, Dave Penman, representing senior civil servants, said that the private sector had “embraced hybrid working, recognising the efficiencies it delivers and competitive edge it gives to employers in a tight labour market”.

“Meanwhile, the luddites in Cabinet insist on micro-managing the Civil Service, which will only deter good people from joining while simultaneously demotivating those already there.”