Government to move 22,000 civil servants out of London, Sunak reveals

Written by Richard Johnstone on 11 March 2020 in News

Chancellor puts figure on number of officials expected to move, as departments develop relocation plans ahead of Spending Review

Photo: PA

The government wants to move 22,000 civil servants out of central London by 2030 to help ensure “government will make decisions differently in future”, the chancellor revealed in today's Budget.

In his speech to MPs, Rishi Sunak set out the plan to relocate jobs, beginning with the creation of an economic campus in the north of England. It will be staffed by around 750 officials by departments including the Treasury, the Department for International Trade, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and the Ministry of Housing, Communicates and Local Government, he said.

The Budget document confirmed the target, but did not indicate where the campus will be located.


Sunak said the move would support the government's efforts to "level up" different areas of the country to ensure economic growth and job opportunities are more evenly distributed.

"While talent is evenly spread, opportunity is not and we will fix that," he said.

According to the document, the “vast majority” of the 22,000 roles being moved from Whitehall would move out of the capital to other regions and nations of the UK.

“This will take place over the next decade via the Cabinet Office and its Places for Growth programme,” it said.

The Cabinet Office revealed last month that departments were working with the Places for Growth team on plans to move more civil service jobs out of London as part of the Spending Review. The chancellor today confirmed the review will conclude in July.

However, today’s announcement is the first time the government has set a concrete target number for relocations since the revised Government Estates Strategy in July 2018 pledged to move “thousands” of public servants out of London by 2030.

The PfG programme “has been working with all departments to use the next Spending Review to drive location and workforce planning in core departments, their arm’s-length bodies and the government functions”, according to last month's update on the government’s estate strategy.

The strategy's initial focus has been on public bodies, with a pledge to host agencies created as a result of Brexit outside the capital, the annual update said. It indicated the next steps would focus on the civil service itself, as confirmed by Sunak today.

To date, the PfG programme “has been driven by workforce planning and a place-based approach to determining destination locations”, according to the Cabinet Office.

“This involves identifying the roles suitable for relocation and matching those roles to labour markets in our strategic locations. This allows the civil service to recruit in places across the whole of the UK that have the skills to enable organisations and cities to flourish.”

The government is already creating a number of government hubs across the country where civil servants will be co-located. The scheme, which has been led by HM Revenue and Customs plans to reduce its number of offices, now has hubs either open or planned in locations including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Belfast, Nottingham, Birmingham, Cardiff and Bristol.

Responding to the announcement, FDA general secretary Dave Penman said that ensuring the civil service reflects the public it serves was a laudable aim, but there must be a “proper strategy to deliver benefits over the longer-term”.

He added: “Indeed, many current or prospective civil servants would relish the opportunity to live and work outside of London, but a series of tokenistic gifts to various Northern towns will do nothing to support a balanced economy or improve policy-making.

“These plans can only have a meaningful impact if they are part of a broader plan to build a genuine government presence in other regions and nations of the UK, which will allow civil servants to develop their careers and reach the senior ranks without the need to move home or relocate to the south east of England.

“The government must ensure it does not make snap decisions to relocate a handful of government jobs here and there in search of headlines or for short-term political gains.”

About the author

Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @CSW_DepEd

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Me Myself and I

Submitted on 12 March, 2020 - 13:26
Hopefully, this time, out of London will not be a drive down the M4 to Reading as reaction to previous reviews. Far better that meaningful posts and sundry is used to add social value to areas that previous suffered from closures of HMG public services and ALBs. Given that London to Carlisle is a little over 3 hours on a good train from London, north of Manchester and Leeds should be under active consideration as well.

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