Culture dept to quit iconic headquarters

THE Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is quitting its iconic headquarters near Trafalgar Square and renting space in another Whitehall building, in an audacious bid to shave £10m from its annual budget, City A.M. has learned.

The unusual move shows the lengths that cabinet ministers are going to in order to find departmental savings of up to 40 per cent, as the coalition government gears up for the tightest fiscal squeeze in Britain’s peacetime history.

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt – who currently leases the imposing Georgian-fronted building on Cockspur Street – is in negotiations about renting spare office space from the Department for International Development and the Department of Health.

An aide to Hunt said the building, which costs £10m a year to lease and £3,000-a-week to heat, was too large for the department’s needs.

“It’s a massively expensive albatross around our neck. We don’t fill it as it is,” she said, adding the building would be even emptier when job cuts start to kick in.

Up to one in two staff at the department could be made redundant in the autumn, according to plans submitted to the Treasury that imply a 40 per cent cut to its £2.1bn budget.

DCMS officials yesterday insisted a final decision on whether to quit the building had yet to be taken, but Cluttons and BNP Paribas Real Estate are already marketing the 95,670 sq ft building to prospective tenants at a price of £49.50 per sq ft.

The building, which began life as the headquarters of a steamship company in the eighteenth century, underwent a major redevelopment in 2003 and boasts a plant-filled atrium, gymnasium and scenic lift.

Keith Harris, who is marketing the property for BNP Paribas, said there had been a lot of interest due to a dearth of West End commercial space.