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Government to cut its central London buildings by 80%

[LONDON] The government plans to cut the number of its central London buildings by 80 per cent and move over half its London civil servants into cheaper areas as part of a plan to cut costs, the Cabinet Office said on Friday.

Citing what it called the successful example of the Home Office's immigration complex in Croydon, south of London, it said the idea was to get civil servants working more effectively, foster economic growth, and save billions for the taxpayer.

It planned to sell off or lease the existing central London locations, freeing up space for housing and businesses.

Having vacated 72 government buildings already, the government said it aims to cut the total number of buildings it occupies in London to 23 shortly after 2020, down from 143 in 2010. "Since 2010, we have got out of property 26 times the size of Buckingham Palace and halved our government buildings in London," Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said in a statement.

Civil servants will be moved from prime locations like Whitehall to less expensive areas like Croydon or Stratford in east London.

For example, the statement added, it costs 35,000 pounds a year to base someone in the Ministry of Defence headquarters in Whitehall, compared to 3,000 pounds at the UK Visas and Immigration offices in Croydon.

The policy, part of the government's estate strategy, could save taxpayers billions of pounds by 2030, Maude added. - Reuters