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Written Statements

Volume 748: debated on Friday 19 April 2024

Written Statements

Friday 19 April 2024

Cabinet Office

State of the Estate: 2022-23

I have today laid before Parliament, pursuant to section 86 of the Climate Change Act 2008, the “State of the Estate in 2022-23”. This report describes the progress made on improving the efficiency and sustainability of the central Government estate and, where relevant, records the progress that Government have made since the previous year. The report is published on an annual basis, and this year highlights the following progress.

Government reduced their overall greenhouse gas emissions by 39%, compared to the 2017-18 baseline, with reductions in energy consumption saving the Government an estimated £163 million compared to the 2017-18 baseline.

Government as a whole reduced total waste by 16% from the 2017-18 baseline, exceeding the 15% target. In total, 5% of Departmental waste was sent to landfill, which therefore met the target of 5% maximum.

The Government Property Agency Government hubs have continued to grow in number during 2022-23, with the opening of Peterborough, Quay House, which brings together departments into this shared location, making more efficient use of space. Sixteen hubs are now in operation, with a combined floorspace of about 330,000 square metres, located in all four nations of the United Kingdom, providing a network of shared modern workspaces for the UK civil service.

Through the places for growth commitment, by March 2023, 12,075 roles had been relocated outside of London (this increased to 18,283 by 31 December 2023). This exceeds the programme’s interim 2025 milestone set out in the levelling-up White Paper of relocating 15,000 roles by 2025.

We are also seeing significant savings being achieved, demonstrating our commitment to running the UK estate in as efficient a manner as possible. We have disposed of no-longer-needed properties worth more than £1 billion, returning that money to the taxpayer to be reinvested.

Across Government and the wider public sector, services are delivering real improvements through more imaginative and integrated estate design, and through encouraging co-location and more efficient use of space. By 2030, Government property will have significantly contributed to economic growth, and supported improving the quality of public services, while at the same time helping to transform places and communities.


Work and Pensions

Administrative Earnings Threshold

Further to written ministerial statement HCWS405, tabled on 15 April 2024, I can confirm we intend to lay the Universal Credit (Administrative Earnings Threshold) (Amendment) Regulations 2024 later today.

This will raise the administrative earnings threshold level, delivering on a commitment made in the spring Budget last year, to £892 per calendar month for individual customers and £1,437 per calendar month for couples in Great Britain. The new threshold levels would be equivalent to an individual working 18 hours per week at the national living wage or couples working a total of 29 hours per week at the national living wage. This change will mean that the threshold will have doubled since September 2022, when it was first increased from the equivalent of nine hours for a single person.

Combined with previous increases, this means 400,000 more customers will have more intensive support from our work coaches to help them to progress in work and move off welfare. This is why the Government have today laid regulations to amend Regulation 99(6) of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 to raise the administrative earnings threshold level to £892 for individual claimants and £1,437 for couples in Great Britain, from 13 May 2024.

This is all part of our welfare reforms to make work pay and is backed up by our £2.5 billion back to work plan, which will help a million people find, stay and succeed in employment.


Work and Health Update

Together with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my right hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins), later today we will publish a Command Paper launching the fit note reform call for evidence.

Good work is good for health. We know that work positively impacts people’s physical and mental health and wellbeing, and through our ambitious employment package, announced at the spring Budget in 2023, and our back to work plan, we are supporting people in their journey back to work by addressing their needs and empowering them to fulfil their potential.

However, there are currently 2.8 million people of working age who are economically inactive due to long-term sickness. We know that 10 million “not fit for work” fit notes are issued every year. This represents a missed opportunity to help people get the appropriate support they may need to remain in work. We should reform the fit note process so that it starts with an objective assessment of what someone can do with the right support, rather than what they cannot. A new fit note process will ensure people get the right help for their needs, reducing pressure on GPs and helping to free up thousands of GP appointments.

At autumn statement 2023, the Chancellor announced £24 million to begin designing and implementing fit note trailblazers in a number of integrated care systems in England. These trailblazers will test how to give people receiving a fit note for a prolonged period of time the support they need to stay in or get back to work. These trailblazers will build on the WorkWell service pilots providing integrated health and work support locally.

The call for evidence published today will gather evidence to assess the impact of the current fit note process in supporting work and health conversations. It asks stakeholders how they would like to see the fit note process change to better support people to start, stay and succeed in work.

While fit note policy and regulations apply to Great Britain, fit notes are delivered within health systems, which are devolved. Collaboration is key to achieving our ambitions, and we are committed to working with stakeholders across the United Kingdom as we progress fit note reform ahead of a formal consultation later this year. The call for evidence therefore seeks a broad range of views and ideas from those with lived experiences, healthcare professionals and employers.

This is an important part of our next generation of welfare reforms and the Government’s ambition to improve health outcomes, and help people get access to the support they need to return to, remain and thrive in work.