BT to close 90 of its British offices and shed 13,000 jobs

BT profits

BT is preparing to close about 90 per cent of its offices in Britain as the former state monopoly implements a cost-cutting and modernisation drive, involving the loss of about 13,000 jobs.

Philip Jansen, 52, who became chief executive in February, is moving ahead with a restructuring plan launched last May under Gavin Patterson, 51, his predecessor.

BT said it would reduce its estate of more than 300 sites to about 30, leaving areas where it has had a base for decades.

The company did not give details of which sites it was closing but concentrated on the first eight locations where it will continue to operate. It said it was the “largest programme of its type in the UK” and is expected to be completed by 2023.

Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Ipswich, London and Manchester would be key locations for the group, BT said, adding that they demonstrated its commitment to the whole of the UK.

In London, BT is seeking to leave its headquarters near St Paul’s Cathedral. It is in talks over a £200 million sale and leaseback with Great Portland Estates, designed to allow BT time to move to a permanent new head office.

BT, which became a stock market company in 1984, is Britain’s biggest telecoms group controlling large parts of the country’s broadband network through Openreach, its broadband infrastructure arm. It also owns EE, the nation’s largest mobile phone network, BT Sport and its global services business, which provides multinational organisations with security, cloud and networking services.

Mr Jansen, said: “We have dedicated teams working on identifying the best buildings to move into and which ones to redesign for the future. As a result of this programme, BT people will be housed in inspiring offices that are better for our business and better for our customers.”

In some cases BT will refurbish its existing buildings and in others it will move to new sites. The remaining locations will cover corporate offices, contact centres and “specialist sites”.

BT launched the restructuring last year as it sought to recover from years of financial underperformance, a battle with Ofcom, the regulator, over investment in fibre networks, and an accounting scandal in Italy, part of its struggling global services division.

It is cutting about 13,000 of its 100,000 workforce, but is also hiring about 6,000 people to support its network deployment and customer service. It is seeking to save £1.5 billion over three years and is investing in its full-fibre broadband network, plugging its pension scheme deficit and dividends.

The plans have faced scrutiny from the Prospect union. Noel McClean, Prospect’s national secretary, said the move “poses a huge logistical challenge for all concerned”.

“For example, closing each existing building will require a period of consultation and considerable support for affected staff, from both the company and the union.”