Department for Transport has eyes on ‘second home’ in Second City

Ministry mulls Birmingham expansion as MHCLG works up plans for Wolverhampton outpost
Birmingham bound? Transport secretary Grant Shapps (PA)

By Jim Dunton

01 Dec 2020

The Department for Transport has become the latest ministry identified as exploring plans to open a second home outside of London, with Birmingham emerging as a strong contender.

Two weeks ago nearby Wolverhampton was trailed as a potential base for a Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local  Government regional office, where ministers would be expected to spend at least part of the week.

DfT’s plans to make Birmingham – famously the nation’s “Second City” – its own second home were reported by the Sunday Times at the weekend.

The paper quoted sources familiar with Whitehall discussions on proposals to relocate around 22,000 civil service roles away from the capital over the next decade. They said: “It’s about getting ministers and their civil servants working closer to the people most affected by the decisions they take.”

It also said the Cabinet Office was exploring proposals to move some Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport operations to Manchester; create a “health cluster” in Leeds; and move Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office staff to Glasgow. FCDO has a presence in East Kilbride, seven miles south of Glasgow, where part of the recently absorbed Department for International Development is based.

DfT already has its wholly-owned HS2 Ltd operation headquartered in Birmingham city centre, while last month HM Revenue and Customs received the keys to the new government hub at 3 Arena Central in the city  from construction and infrastructure firm Kier.

The 3 Arena Central building will house around 4,000 civil servants including Department for Work and Pensions staff and officials from the Valuation Office Agency. The building is due to open as a workplace next year.

Property firm Jones Lang LaSalle was last year reported to have agreed a 15-year lease on further office space in Birmingham city centre, earmarked for 1,700 government workers. JLL is the Government Property Agency’s national adviser.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street wrote on Twitter that he had “lobbied incredibly hard behind the scenes” to bring parts of DfT to Birmingham and MHCLG to Wolverhampton. 

“It looks like we may well have secured both, which would be another sign of huge confidence in the West Midlands,” the Conservative said yesterday.

As CSW has previously reported, Labour-run Wolverhampton City Council resolved two years ago to invest £13m in developing a grade-A office scheme with the specific intention of attracting government jobs to the city.

Last month’s news that MHCLG was investigating the possibility of opening a base in the city appeared to vindicate its commitment. The department has so-far failed to respond to CSW’s request for comment on its plans for a Black Country outpost.

Wolverhampton is roughly half-way between communities secretary Robert Jenrick’s country home in Herefordshire and his Newark constituency in Nottinghamshire.

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