More hotdesking or straight to the broom cupboard? BBC told to improve space usage to meet targets on estate costs

Catherine Neilan
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BBC series W1A has more than a ring of truth about hotdesking (Source: BBC)
Fans of BBC spoof W1A - in which the hotdesking policy means there is never enough space, even for the mighty Hugh Bonneville - could chuckle at the National Audit Office's review of Aunty's estate management issues.
Because although it has made "significant achievements" in reducing the cost and size of its estate, as well as having more than half its staff outside of London a year ahead of time, the broadcaster is still spending too much money on its facilities and not making good enough use of the space it has.
The report, published yesterday, noted that costs were "distorted" by the expense of running Broadcasting House, the BBC's whizzy new premises which it moved into from Television Centre a couple of years ago.
The cost of the central London building accounted for a third of the BBC's total outlay last year - £89m out of a total £273m spent. However it has saved £30m a year by selling off TVC in a deal worth £200m.
But the costs of Broadcasting House - where the desk space issue is understood to be pretty close to that portrayed in the sitcom - meant the BBC failed to meet a target that was set in 2008 to cap estate costs at six per cent of total licence fee income.
"The BBC set an overall target cost for its estate but there is little evidence that it was sufficiently mindful of the target when taking decisions on individual estate projects," the NAO said. In fact, the broadcaster has shifted to a different metric, now aiming to keep any increases in estate costs below the retail price index (RPI).
Value for money will depend on the BBC "making better use of space across the estate", it added.
"The BBC has set ambitious targets to do this but it will need better information on usage to succeed."
An interesting nugget of detail from the report shows that the BBC is now targeting to reduce the amount of space taken up by one person from 12 sq metres to 8.3 sq metres. Does that mean more hotdesking in BBC offices in Salford, Glasgow, Bristol and so on? Or perhaps they could revive the broom cupboard from its Andi Peters/Edd the Duck heyday?
Nick Prettejohn, chair of the VFM committee at the BBC Trust, noted that the report gave "a clear steer on where further improvements can be made and the Trust will continue to track progress to make sure the NAO’s recommendations are implemented in full.”

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