Switch to "hotdesking" and home working will not hit new investment, says top client.
BT property has reassured construction suppliers that a cost-cutting drive launched this week will not result in a drop in work.

However, a spokesperson for BT Property was unable to provide figures on the group's construction spend for the coming year.

In a bid to cut estate running costs and make capital savings, BT aims to reduce the number of office workstations from 10 000 to 3000 over the next four years, encouraging staff to "hotdesk".

It also wants 10% of its 100 000 office staff to work from home by April 2000.

A further raft of measures is included in the company's Options 2000 programme. They include streamlining the way services such as construction and cleaning are contracted out.

Head of portfolio services Ray Jenkins said: "The benefits are immense. BT will make a major savings in its estate running costs and capital savings by reducing investments in new offices and expensive refurbishments."

But the BT Property spokesperson said: "In the current financial year to March 2000, BT Property is delivering office buildings in excess of 10 000 m2 in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Coventry, Nottingham and Brentwood. Plans are also afoot for a further 10 000 m2 building in Sevenoaks. There is plenty of work there for the construction industry."

BT recently announced disposals of 27 000 m2 from its total estate of 65 000 m2 for the year to March 1999 . "These disposals are part of BT's integrated programme of rationalisation," said the spokesperson. "But the flipside is that when we come out of a building, there are still opportunities for the building industry."

Southgate Developments, a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT, was set up to maximise the asset value of its redundant property, and often sets up joint ventures with property developers. "So, by turning a redundant telephone exchange into a supermarket, we are creating more work for the construction industry," added the spokesperson.

"By saying we want people to work from home we are not saying 'That's the end of it for the building industry'. There is still a lot of work from BT for construction."

BT is among the construction industry's biggest clients, in previous years spending up £500m on projects of all sizes.

It is developing a strategy to cut its construction supplier base, and earlier this year held a forum with contractors to discuss how this might be done. This was followed by another session with consultants.

Headed by group facilities general manager Les Clarke, the strategy is designed to help BT make savings by working more regularly with a select list of firms.