Departments developing civil service relocation plans for Spending Review, report reveals

Cabinet Office team working with ministries to identify roles ‘that do not meet our criteria for requiring a London base’

Aerial view of Whitehall. Photo: PA

By Richard Johnstone

06 Feb 2020

Government departments are working with the Cabinet Office to develop plans to move more civil service jobs out of London as part of the Spending Review expected this year, it has been revealed.

In the annual update on the government’s estate strategy, the Cabinet Office said that departments were working “to develop their own relocation plans”, targeting those roles that “do not meet our criteria for requiring a London base”.

The work forms part of the Places for Growth (PfG) scheme, which is the government’s programme to move more civil service roles and public bodies into the regions and nations of the UK to ensure government is better represented across the country and to lower costs. The government’s estate strategy has pledged to move 1,000 posts out of London by 2022, with “thousands more” to follow.


In the annual update, the Cabinet Office said 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 the report, the initial focus has been on public bodies, with a pledge to host the new agencies needed following the UK’s exit from the European Union outside the capital. The project has engaged with a broad range of organisations and secured the commitment of more than 3,000 roles to be relocated out of London, according to the central department, with commitments to create 16 organisations outside London.

The next steps will move the focus to the civil service itself, the report indicated, with proposals for moves out of Whitehall being developed in anticipation of the next Spending Review, which is expected this year. The full review was originally planned for last year but was replaced with a one-year plan amid uncertainty over Brexit.

The State of the Estate in 2018-19 report stated: “In anticipation of the next Spending Review, PfG has been supporting departments to develop their own relocation plans, targeting those roles that do not meet our criteria for requiring a London base.

“The approach of the programme to date has been driven by workforce planning and a place-based approach to determining destination locations. 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 report also highlighted that the Places for Growth team was also working with central civil service HR to build up the civil service’s leadership presence outside of London “to help us enable career progression and offer sustainable career paths at all grades across the UK”.

As part of this, a number of government hubs are under development, with civil servants from different departments co-locating outside central London, with locations including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Belfast, Nottingham, Birmingham, Cardiff and Bristol.

The annual update has also revealed that the government raised more than £2bn from selling 339 ex-government sites in 2018-19, meaning that the size of the estate has fallen by around a third since the current rationalisation drive began in 2010.

The report also said work to improve the sustainability of civil service offices had meant that civil servants use 59% less paper than they did in 2010

Publishing the update earlier this week, Cabinet Office minister Jeremy Quin said: “Reducing the size of the government estate saves taxpayers money. It also provides opportunities for both the commercial and residential sectors and helps drive efficiency across government.”

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