Jacob Rees-Mogg has revealed he is planning to sell off £1.5bn worth of government offices in London due to the proportion of civil servants continuing to work from home.
The minister for Brexit opportunities and government efficiency will publish a strategy next week that includes selling property assets over the next three years, with staff working in fewer buildings as part of a new network of government “hubs”, the Telegraph reported.
The proposal is part of a government property strategy aimed at raising £2bn in savings from property sales and efficiencies, and also encompasses the use of modern building materials and energy sources.
Rees-Mogg, who has orchestrated a long-running campaign to encourage civil servants to stop working from home after coronavirus restrictions were scrapped, told the Sunday Telegraph: “We have seen over the last year that expensive office space in central London has been underutilised. Why should the taxpayer be made to fork out for half-empty buildings?
“But moving civil servants to our beautiful counties and towns through the Places for Growth programme will benefit everyone, giving civil servants a better quality of life and helping economic growth outside the capital.
“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.”
The Conservative MP for North East Somerset added that transferring civil service jobs out of London would “allow greater savings and mean the government is closer to the communities it serves”.
In April, it emerged that Rees-Mogg had written to cabinet ministers urging them to coerce staff into a “rapid return to the office” and left notes in empty Whitehall workspaces with the message: “I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon.” Labour MPs called the move at the time “patronising” and “passive-aggressive”.
It also emerged that Rees-Mogg was conducting “spot checks” at offices to monitor occupancy rates with senior bosses told to publish figures on the proportion of government staff working from the office.
The minister has also condemned the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) after staff told bosses at the regulator that two days a week in the office is the most they can cope with.
“The FCA has an important job and any sensible person would recognise that spending only two days a week in the office will harm performance,” he told the Telegraph. “We know that people work better when they are together.”