Mayfield plans could cut civil service costs, says report

Michael Hunt

Plans to create a civil service campus at the former Mayfield goods station near Piccadilly could result in significant taxpayer savings if treated as a cross Government asset, according to a report.

Former publishing executive Ian Smith, who was commissioned by the Government to carry out the report, highlighted the scheme as an example of the sort of 21st century public service campus which will help relocate 15,000 civil servants out of London over the next five years.

The Mayfield plan envisages housing up to 5,000 civil servants and creating a new public park in a largely neglected approach to the city. It focuses on the former Mayfield railway station and covers an area bordered by the inner ring road south, Fairfield Street to the north and London Road to the west.

The aim is to combine the benefits of joined-up government delivering better public services with much needed regeneration.

A feasibility study into the proposed civil service campus was announced by the then Regional Minister Beverley Hughes in May last year. The masterplan was prepared by Drivers Jonas LLP and architects Bennetts Associates.

Smith's report and recommendations, which include provision of relocation funding to support schemes like Mayfield, were published alongside yesterday's Budget and have been accepted by Government.

Smith said: "My recommendations should help realise the Mayfield project as they will improve the incentives for departments to relocate outside of London and strengthen regional influence over departments' location decisions."

Smith also urges all regions to make better cases for relocation, not just lobbying for jobs but identifying how they can create "clusters" that build regional competitiveness.

It is estimated that 2,500 civil servants would be relocated from the south with a further 2,500 moving to the campus from existing accommodation within the M60 ring.

The new campus would also help create a further 1,000 jobs in support services in the wider economy.

In his report, Smith said the campus was too large for any one single department so should be viewed as a strategic asset for the whole civil service.

The business case for Mayfield, located on land owned by BRB Residuary, highlights the benefits of a "cross department" facility as being:

  • Efficiency gains achieved by sharing functions and facilities and lower building maintenance costs. An estimated investment of £250-£300m would generate net benefits, discounted over 30 years, of £700m
  • Improved career opportunities, lower recruitment costs and increased knowledge sharing
  • Creation of one of the UK's most sustainable office complexes
  • Enabling new ways of working and collaboration
  • Helping regeneration of the Eastern Gateway area of Manchester

Smith said there was an urgent need to identify a "cross-government approach" at regional and departmental level so that the scheme could proceed.

Regional Minister Phil Woolas, said: "The Smith report acknowledges the benefits of clusters for civil service relocation, which is good news not just for Manchester and the Mayfield proposals but for the region as a whole.

"I am currently working closely with Liverpool City Region to put together a proposition which I hope will be similarly attractive to Whitehall based departments and would welcome similar ideas from other areas of the North West."

Liz Meek, regional director of Government Office for the North West, added: "We are here to serve the people of the North West and the Mayfield proposals and others like them elsewhere in the region provide a blueprint of how we can do that better at less cost to the taxpayer."

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: "Mayfield is a fantastic opportunity. Not only could it create up thousands of jobs for Manchester, with many coming from Whitehall, it will act as a catalyst to accelerate the regeneration in this area of the city centre.

"We will look for environmental excellence alongside the creation of a new park and Mayfield will be another attractive location for companies and another opportunity to bring the jobs to the city we still very much need."

"This independent report confirms what we have been saying about this excellent development and I welcome the priority it has been given by central government."

Landowner BRB Residuary held a public exhibition showing the Mayfield plans in the main concourse at Piccadilly station in January this year.

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