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NAO: Little progress has been made in achieving GPU ambitions

The Government Property Unit (GPU) has made little progress towards its objective of creating a shared and integrated estate since it was set up in 2010, the National Audit Office (NAO) has today stated.

In a report released today, called ‘Progress on the government estate strategy’, the NAO found that although the government was getting better value for money from its estate, there were nevertheless problems with the implementation of the ambitions of the GPU.

The GPU was established as part of the Cabinet Office to better coordinate the Civil Service estate of 4,600 individual holdings, worth around a £2.55bn a year to run.

It was found that though the GPU had taken steps to improve its own capability, it had a shortage of property and project management experts, meaning that some areas of the department were not effectively.

Specifically, the report argued that the Hubs programme had the potential to be a catalyst for transformation, but had not been fully evaluated.

It also said that the Cabinet Office faced challenges in ensuring that the programme met department needs – including the fact that some had not committed to either Hubs or centralised ownership.

However, the NAO did also report that departments were making good progress to reducing the overall size of the central estate, as overall they reported that their annual estate costs had decreased by £775m in real terms since 2011-12.

Sir Amya Morse, head of the NAO, said: “Departments have continued to reduce their estates, and government is now getting better value for money.

“The GPU, however, still needs to make more headway to achieve a shared, flexible and integrated estate. It’s not going to be plain sailing.

“The GPU should take stock and, if necessary, delay, redesign or consider phasing its programmes over a longer timescale.”

Last year, chief executive of the GPU Bruce Mann talked to PSE about the secret behind successfully integrating the UK’s Civil Service property portfolio in an effective way.

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