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Lyons raises hope of fitout bonanza

Likely move of 20,000 civil servants away from south-east promises big rewards

FIT-OUT firms are anticipating a work boom over the next five years as the Government pushes forward with plans to move civil servants out of London and the south-east following the Lyons review.

Chris Booth, managing director of £200 million turnover company Overbury, said at a fit-out conference in London last week: 'There is talk of between 150 and 300 jobs around the country potentially coming out of the review.

'We want to keep a balanced portfolio between private and public sector work but there will be many opportunities out there.'

The potential bonanza comes after Sir Michael Lyons put forward proposals last year to shift 20,000 civil servants into cheaper office space in the regions.The Government is hoping to save hundreds of millions on top of the £21 billion in efficiency savings outlined in the Gershon review.

The Department of Health, Culture, Media and Sport and the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs already have advanced plans to move officials to new bases in Milton Keynes, Yorkshire, Birmingham and Newcastle.

A Treasury spokeswoman said: 'It is hard to put an overall figure on the actual number of schemes as each department is handling moves individually.

'The target is to move the 20,000 civil servants out of London by 2010.'

Gary Wheeler, director of workplaces at architect Gensler, said at the 'Creating Workspace for Tomorrow's World' conference that the next boom region for office fit-out globally was likely to be the Middle East.

He said: 'There is no set workplace culture yet so there are opportunities out there.'

And Geoff Marsh, director of Indian Property Research, added that blue-chip relocation to the subcontinent would also create opportunities for firms.

But Eddie McElhinney, chief executive of lighting company SAS, warned that UK firms would have to offer unique solutions as they would be unable to compete with local labour costs.

Architect urges sharing the honours

JACK Pringle, president-elect of the Royal Institute of British Architects, warned last week that architects must share the plaudits for successful projects with other members of the construction team to prevent a recruitment crisis.

Speaking at last week's fit-out conference, Mr Pringle said: 'Mechanical and electrical engineering has the most demanding role in fit-out, but they have often been the Cinderella of the construction industry and they need our support.We need to share some of the perceived glamour of designers to help them attract talented youngsters into the area.'

Mr Pringle, partner at Pringle Brandon interior architects, said he wanted to encourage more participation in the RIBA from other industry sectors during his time as president. And he said he would use the post as a platform to campaign against the Private Finance Initiative, which he called a 'bizarre'method of procurement.