Government records reveal over £6.5 million spent on storage

By David on November 30th, 2010 | No Comments

Government records reveal over £6.5 million spent on storage

Government departments spent more than £6.5 million between May and September this year hiring storage space, according to recently released figures.

This information was revealed in the government’s recently published spending records, where each department had to publish every transaction involving more than £25,000.

Most spent on government archive storage

Virtually all this money was paid to archiving firms, who are contracted to look after the paper records of most of the departments.

Iron Mountain, the biggest player in this industry, receives the most government storage spending; contracts with them accounted for £3.5 million, or over half the total. TNT also received over £1 million, for a mixture of storage and handling government parcels through their logistics network.

Crown Records Management, part of the larger Crown Relocations family, also have government archiving contracts, worth nearly £29,000.

The border truths about government storage

As the figures were broken down by organisation, this also provided an interesting snapshot of which parts of the big departments spend the most. The leader by far was the UK Borders Agency, part of the Home Office, which accounted for £2.8 million all by itself, entirely for storing records.

Yet the government does pay to store other things too. The biggest single transaction listed as ‘storage’ in this period actually had nothing to do with archives; it was the Department of Health spending £1,117,663 with generic drug-maker Actavis UK, presumably for the storage of medical supplies.

An interesting entry also came from the Special Investigations branch of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, who spent over £336,000 on the storage of ‘seized goods’ – potentially including weapons and drugs.

Government transactions and the storage industry

The government has published these records of its spending to increase public access to information and put more scrutiny on the civil service.

Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, writing in the Guardian, said: “This government should be held to account for every penny it spends and I believe that with the weight of public interest on their shoulders, greater transparency will drive departments to make the right decisions about how they spend taxpayers’ money.”

These figures show how government departments are important customers for several archiving firms, something which may act against them if archive storage spending is reduced by the imminent cuts.

They also demonstrate that storage is not a huge section of government spending, however. Just 77 transactions amongst the full records of spending in this period were for storage, out of a total of 194,000.

This may partly have been to do with the ambiguous descriptions used in the released accounts, which do their best to avoid making it clear what each payment was actually for. The total given here was the money paid in transactions to known storage companies, but there could still be more storage spending that they don’t want us to know about, hidden away in the records.

The lack of payments to the big self storage companies such as Safestore and Big Yellow also mirrors what we discovered in our FOI requests to individual departments. Civil servants seem to prefer using archiving services for files, while most departments have enough room in their property portfolios to satisfy all their other storage needs.

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