Rishi Sunak has named a former car park as the Treasury’s top pick to be the new home of its Darlington offices, which more than a thousand officials will relocate to by the end of decade.
Brunswick, an empty site around five minutes from the city centre, is one of two final contenders to be the permanent site of the Darlington “economic campus”, the chancellor has said.
Central Park, new offices which are a 10-minute walk out of the centre and already home to Teesside University’s National Horizon Centre, is the government’s second choice of location as the Government Property Agency’s procurement process reaches its final stages.
The chancellor held a Q&A session yesterday with Darlington-based staff, local businesses, residents and college students before taking part in a panel session with tax and welfare director general Beth Russell.
Russell, who is based at the Darlington site, said: “I really passionately believe having the economic campus in Darlington is the right thing to do for the civil service – and for the Treasury in particular which has traditionally been one of the most London-centric of government departments.
“It provides an opportunity for people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to work in the civil service to do so, bringing in a much wider range of people with different experiences and perspectives to improve our advice to ministers and the services we provide the public.”
The movement of jobs is part of the government’s Places for Growth programme, which aims to relocate 22,000 jobs by the end of the decade, in alignment with the government's levelling up strategy.
More than 2,000 civil service jobs have been moved out of London since the commitment was made in 2018.
The chancellor announced in March 2021 Darlington would be the home of the Treasury’s new northern base, with more than 1,100 new roles to be based there by 2025.
More than 110 Treasury staff are now working in Darlington alongside staff from other departments, with up to 300 HMT roles to be in place at the campus by 2025. Most staff have been recruited directly to Darlington, with some choosing to relocate from London.
Staff are currently using Bishopsgate House, an existing Department for Education building, as an interim office. They will move into Feethams House, a nearby office complex, later this year ahead of a relocation to the permanent site.
The campus will house teams from the Department for International Trade, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Office for National Statistics and the Competition and Markets Authority.
Sunak heard from new recruits about how they have settled into their roles on his visit to the market town.
A recent recruit from Newcastle said: “I spent a fair amount of time considering what career options were available to me and assumed I’d have to move down south to find a suitable position.
“So the opportunity to work at the Darlington Economic Campus and effectively be at the centre of government without having to relocate became a really attractive prospect.”
A staff member who relocated from London said: “The past few years have made a lot of us re-evaluate what our priorities are – the Darlington Economic Campus provides fantastic opportunities to continue working within the civil service, without the need to be based in London for Treasury roles.
“I have really welcomed the opportunity to work in a smaller town and enjoy what living in County Durham offers – from a greener environment and more leisurely pace of life, to being able to walk to my workplace. It’s really the small things that matter.”
Sunak said: “I am delighted that we are in the final stages of finding a permanent site for our new campus which is creating jobs for local people, spreading opportunity and levelling up.”