Places for Growth: Which departments are leading the way in London jobs exodus?

New stats reveal most popular destinations for job relocations, which grades are moving most and the departments playing the biggest role
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By Tevye Markson

14 Dec 2023

The Home Office is leading the charge in moving civil service jobs from London to the rest of the UK, having made 3,444 relocations since 2020, newly-published data shows.

The Places for Growth programme, which aims to relocate 22,000 jobs from London in a decade, has now reached a milestone of 16,000 moves, the minister for the Cabinet Office announced yesterday. In light of this progress since the announcement of the scheme in 2020, the government has set a new goal of hitting the overall target by 2027 instead of 2030.

Data published by the Cabinet Office yesterday reveals which departments have taken most advantage of the programme; which cities, towns, countries and regions have benefited most from it; and which grades are seeing the most relocations. 

Leading the way: Departments with most and least moves

The Home Office accounts for a fifth of the 16,061 relocations under the programme, having moved 3,444 jobs since the programme started.

The Ministry of Justice – which is also the largest government department – comes next with 2,088 relocations, followed by the now-split up Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy with 1,253 and the Cabinet Office with 1,187.

 

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is the final department which has moved more than a thousand civil service jobs, with 1,029, while the Department of Health and Social Care is not far behind on 922.

The department with the fewest job moves – not including those newly formed this year – is the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office with just six relocations. The Treasury is close to the bottom of the table with 224 moves.

A Treasury spokesperson said: “The Treasury has publicly committed to having 335 jobs at the Darlington Economic Campus by the end of March 2025 and we have already met our targets for 2022 and 2023. 

“As a relatively small department, this means that we have already relocated more than one in ten jobs to Darlington, including some of those most senior like the second permanent secretary [Cat Little] and multiple directors.”

An FCDO spokesperson said: “The FCDO is growing its presence and number of staff in Scotland. As part of this, FCDO is relocating to a modern building in central Glasgow confirming the UK government’s long-term commitment to Scotland."

 

 

Location, location, location

A fifth of civil service jobs moved out of London under the Places for Growth programme – 3,350 – have gone to the north west of England, the data shows.

Yorkshire and the Humber is the next biggest destination, welcoming 3,107 (19%) jobs.

 

More than half of this cohort – 1,668 – have moved to Leeds, the top destination city, with 10% of the total relocations.

The next-most common city destinations are Manchester (1,443), Glasgow (1,341), Birmingham (1,120) and Sheffield (906).

Most roles have stayed in England, with 12,586 – more than three-quarters – moving from London to other parts of the country; 1,767 going to Scotland; 931 to Wales; and 271 to Northern Ireland.

 

The location of 505 moves is unknown.

Commenting on the announcement that the target would be brought forward to 2027,PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said the union is "in favour of a diverse civil service based in areas requiring public investment" but said it has concerns "that the civil service is retreating from smaller towns and cities at a time when there is a greater need for them to remain".

"Every town should have its own DWP office, for example," he said. “The UK civil service should help local communities and economies, and advance the career opportunities, pay, terms and conditions of civil servants wherever they work.”  

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: "Places for Growth is relocating roles to regions across the UK, including Stoke-on-Trent, Wolverhampton, Darlington and Wrexham. New regional hubs are expected to deliver millions of pounds of economic benefits for local areas through increased footfall and spending from staff.

“Last week, it was announced that Aberdeen, Darlington and Greater Manchester would host second headquarters for major departments and over 300 government roles would be located in Wrexham.
The Cabinet Office announced its own second headquarters in Glasgow in 2022.

"Extensive planning and analysis goes into decisions on new locations, including assessment of value for money, skills and local transport networks.”
 

There are levels to this

Middle-ranking civil servants' roles are seeing the most movement, with some 39% of all relocations – 6,329 jobs – at senior executive officer/higher executive officer grade.

The next most common move is at administrative officer/executive officer level (Cabinet Office figures combined the two), with 4,575 roles relocated, followed by Grade 7/Grade 6 with 4,043.

Meanwhile, 389 senior civil service jobs have been relocated. The grade of 725 moves is unknown.

This order does not quite match up with headcount across the civil service, where the combined AO/EO level would be the biggest cohort, followed by SEO/HEO, AO/EO, G7/G6 and SCS.

As well as the commitment to move 22,000 jobs by 2030 – now brought forward to 2027 – the government also said it would ensure that 50% of UK-based SCS roles are outside Greater London by 2030. The Cabinet Office has released provisional data which suggests around 31% of senior civil servants now work outside of London, up from 26% when the programme began.

The SCS headcount outside London has grown by 500 from 2020 to 2023, rising from 1,285 to 1,785 according to the data.

The cohort in London has risen by 310 in the same period: going from 3,670 to 3,980.

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