Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has officially unveiled the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s new base in Wolverhampton, with around 100 civil servants set to move in next month.
Jenrick visited the ministry's so-called "second headquarters" on Friday at the i9 building in the heart of Wolverhampton, where he was greeted by a performance of George Michael's Careless Whisper, by Wolverhampton Grammar School pupils.
Around 100 officials have been hired to work at the Midlands office so far, with up to 150 more set to join them by next April, MHCLG said in an announcement. Those who have been hired so far include new recruits and some staff who have chosen to relocate.
Jenrick promised the HQ "will bring hundreds of exciting jobs to the city and drive growth across the region".
"I am thrilled that our second headquarters in the i9 building in Wolverhampton has now been officially unveiled and we look forward to welcoming staff to the office, and working here myself along with our other ministers," he said.
MHCLG added that the offices will provide "an opportunity to bring people with different experiences and ideas into the civil service and provide improved employment opportunities for those in Wolverhampton and across the West Midlands".
Ian Brookfield, leader of Wolverhampton Council, said of the office: "It is a huge vote of confidence in Wolverhampton. It’s also a big endorsement of the council’s ambitious plans to invest in – and develop – a new multi-million-pound commercial district in the heart of the city centre, right next to our new, award winning railway station with its excellent connections to London, Birmingham and Manchester.
“Most importantly, this investment is delivering, exciting, well-paid jobs and opportunities for Wolverhampton residents."
However, the ministry has been warned not to over-promise on the impact the office will have on the government's levelling-up agenda.
Earlier this year, the IfG think tank warned relocations along will not be enough to rebalance regional inequality, and that new offices must be the "beginning not the end of the process".
The think tank said Jenrick's suggestion that the public “will be as likely to meet ministers in Wolverhampton as in Whitehall” and that the move would ensure “that local voices are represented… in the creation of government policy” gave the impression that relocation alone was the answer.
“Changing where decisions are made is not the same as changing how they are made,” she said.