CMA and Defra detail northern expansion plans

Manchester, Darlington and Newcastle set for civil service jobs boosts
A Metrolink tram in Manchester Credit: Scouse Smurf/Flickr

By Jim Dunton

22 Nov 2021

The Competition and Markets Authority has set out proposals to expand its operations in the north of England, basing 200 staff in Manchester by 2025 and another two-dozen in Darlington.

Meanwhile, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has said it will refurbish and reconfigure its Lancaster House base in Newcastle as a “core hub office” that will increase job opportunities in the North East. The move is part of the government’s Places for Growth programme, which aims to relocate around 22,000 civil servants out of the capital by the end of the decade.

Regulator the CMA said that over the next three years its fledgling Digital Markets Unit would establish itself in Manchester and that it was now looking for suitable accommodation.

The CMA said Manchester had been chosen for the unit, which will oversee a new regulatory regime for the most powerful digital firms, because the city offered a diverse and highly-skilled labour market for IT, legal and finance roles – plus opportunities to build links with local universities.

The CMA said it expected around 50 staff would be based in Manchester initially, rising to 200 over the next three years. The unit will form a hub with the Digital Regulation Co-operation Forum set up in partnership with the Office of the Information Commissioner and Ofcom.

Darlington foothold

Separately, the CMA said its board had now agreed to set up a Microeconomics Unit at HM Treasury’s new Economic Campus in Darlington.

The unit will have a staff of around 25 and take on the CMA’s existing economic research and evaluation function, which produces the annual State of Competition report. It will also carry out research into supply-side reforms to improve productivity.

Both the Manchester and Darlington teams will be built up through a mix of new starters and existing staff.

The CMA has its headquarters at Canary Wharf in east London. According to its most recent annual report, the organisation had 766 permanent staff at the end of March this year. Around 60 CMA staff work at offices in Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff.

CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said there were bright and talented people everywhere and the organisation wanted to do its part to give them the opportunities they deserved.

“Last year I pledged that the CMA would get closer to the needs of people right across the UK,” he said.

“Since then, we have taken action on issues from refunds on package holidays to tackling excessive pricing on key drugs. Now we are going a step further and bringing our own offices and staff closer to more of the people we serve.

“Manchester and Darlington will be ideal locations for our teams whether we’re ensuring fairness in the tech sector or doing vital research to inform future work.”

Defra’s Newcastle vision set to boost opportunities

On Friday Defra set out plans to refurbish and reconfigure its Lancaster House offices in Newcastle as a hub for the North East – joining the department’s other hubs in London, York and Bristol.

It said the move would “enhance and support” close working and co-location between existing Defra staff in the city and colleagues from the Marine Management Organisation, the Rural Payments Agency, Natural England, the Environment Agency and the Forestry Commission.

Defra said the upgrade of Lancaster House would be carried out over the next 18 months and allow the building to “support more staff”. It said that the hub be actively promoted in recruitment exercises as somewhere for people to “start, progress and finish their career” in the North East.

The department was unable to give an indication of how many new roles it expected to be based in Newcastle as a result of the hub’s creation.

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