Rebecca Evans AM, Minister for Finance and Trefnydd
Today I have published the 11th annual State of the Estate report, which sets out the efficiency and environmental performance of the Welsh Government administrative estate in 2018-19.
Despite the very real constraints imposed by austerity and reducing budgets, the estate has performed well during 2018-19. In addition to reducing headline costs by 3%, we continue to surpass expectations on environmental performance. CO2 emissions are now 66% lower than our baseline year of 2010-2011, against a target of 30%. The proportion of waste sent for recycling was 88% and 11% is used for energy production, which results in less than 1% being sent to landfill.
Our efforts to reduce the cost of running the estate must also take account of our promises to tackle poverty, deliver against the Economic Action Plan, and reduce environmental impact. Maintaining a dispersed estate contributes to local employment opportunities and economic activity across Welsh communities as well as delivering accessible public services.
Disposals of offices at Bocam Park in Bridgend, Hill House in Carmarthen and North Penrallt, Caernarfon have contributed to the reduction in both size and the cost of the estate. The average cost of the Welsh Government administrative estate was £233.22 per sq m and £3,428 per employee as at 31 March 2019.
The cost per employee now compares favourably against the most recent comparator published by the UK government.
Investments in the estate with new offices in Victoria Dock, Caernarfon and the refurbishment of Picton Terrace, Carmarthen have also paid dividends through reductions in costs and energy consumption, while protecting valuable public sector jobs and access to services in these towns. The installation of solar photovoltaic panels and additional insulation at Picton Terrace, Carmarthen have made a significant contribution to our environmental sustainability commitments and we continue to enhance biodiversity across our sites.
The collaborative work on co-location of services with public sector partners continues to gather momentum. Relocation of our own staff and our tenants within Caernarfon has been possible due to collaboration with Gwynedd County Council, our landlord at Victoria Dock, and the Welsh Language Commissioner. In Powys, the proposal to co-locate Welsh Government within County Hall is making good progress and our public sector tenants are in discussion to remain in the town within the existing public estate. In both Gwynedd and Powys, the vacated premises will be redeveloped for much needed housing and regeneration projects.
We are facing many challenges and uncertainties over the final year of the 2015-2020 Location Strategy and will face more such challenges in the future. Although we will be able to make further reductions in the size of our own estate to reduce our own overheads, we need to innovate and work in collaboration with the wider public sector to ensure that, collectively, we use our resources to best effect for the people of Wales.