DWP office closures plan highlights key role for Whitehall lawyers, says chief
Government Legal Department director targets multi-million pound efficiencies
Whitehall has the potential to make significant new procurement savings by honing its use of commercial law specialists, a Government Legal Department director has said.
Wendy Hardaker, who is director of GLD’s recently formed Commercial Law Group, said the £180m in annual savings set to be realised by the Department for Work and Pensions’ estates rationalisation programme was a good example of the efficiencies legal expertise could deliver.
The controversial programme has targeted a 20% reduction in the department’s estate, with the closure of more than 150 sites including JobCentres and back-office facilities, tied in with the approaching end of DWP’s PRIME contract which provides it with serviced accommodation.
Hardaker said the GLD’s commercial lawyers had played an important part in steering DWP through the legal risks to and prepare for new arrangements for when the PRIME contract ends in April next year.
“This project was a particularly complex and technical piece of work, and one that puts lawyers right at the heart of government decision making,” she said.
“Overall the estates transformation has the potential to realise huge savings for taxpayers over the coming years and set up a major department for the future – this is a hugely satisfying part of being a government lawyer.”
GLD said exiting the current private finance initiative contract, negotiating heads of terms for new rents on DWP’s rationalised requirements, and agreeing savings on facilities management costs would deliver savings of £180m a year over the next decade.
It said that the Commercial Law Group, which was established two years ago, would make a “significant contribution” to the Government Commercial Organisation and could strengthen the capability of civil servants working in the commercial function across central government.
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