UK Politics

Small firms to use 'idle' government buildings

Entrepreneurs and start-up firms will be able to use empty government buildings at low rents for a year under plans to be announced by David Cameron.

The prime minister will say that space in up to 300 offices currently sitting "idle" or being under-used will be offered under the new scheme.

Recent figures revealed 550 government premises were not fully used.

In a speech in north-east England, Mr Cameron will vow to "match the capacity we have got with the need out there".

The initiative will also raise some income for the Treasury from buildings which, although either empty or under-utilised, the government is still paying rent on.

'Huge stock'

The one-year offer is designed to help small businesses and fledgling companies establish themselves.

Mr Cameron will hail the step as one of the things government can do to help firms create jobs, adding that the UK must support its "grafters, doers, hard-workers and entrepreneurs" at a time of economic uncertainty.

"The British government has a huge stock of buildings at our disposal," Mr Cameron will say.

"The first priority for the ones we are not using is to sell them off but, in the meantime, many are going to be sitting idle. So let's match the capacity we have got with the need that is out there.

"Let's provide office space where we can to those who can use it."

A review of the government's property estate in September found that more than 456,000 square metres at some 550 sites across the country - equivalent to 2.4% of total space - were vacant.

Some of these buildings have not been occupied for more than a decade and are costing the taxpayer large sums.

Ministers have argued they are "getting a grip" on the situation which they say they inherited from the last government by either disposing of premises, re-negotiating leases or sub-letting offices.

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