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Encourage new clusters of public services, private businesses and universities

Last updated: 03:08pm 8 December 2019

We will ensure that senior posts move too, so that operational headquarters as well as administrative functions are centred not in London but around Britain. And we will do so in a way that encourages the development of new clusters of public services, private businesses and, where appropriate, universities.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.34

Our verdict

According to Office for National Statistics estimates, in 2016 London had the highest concentration of civil servants in the UK, accounting for 19% of all civil servants. Moreover, since 2010, a stark majority of senior grades – 67% of all senior civil servants – have been based in London. The manifesto contained a promise to move civil servants away from London and the South East. This policy is a pledge to decentralise public services in a way that encourages the development of new clusters of public services, private businesses and, where appropriate, universities.

In July 2018, the government published an Estate Strategy, committing to move “thousands” of civil servants across England by opening 20 new hubs by 2022. In the strategy, the government mentions that moving departments away from London is expected to boost economic development in new regions.

The Places for Growth Programme was launched in 2018, a “team within the Cabinet Office that seeks to relocate Civil Service roles out of London”. Part of its future role is:

“speaking to city councils, universities and world-class organisations across the country, to ensure we promote the right opportunities for partnership and cooperation between the public, private and academic sectors.”

The launch of the Estate Strategy and the Places for Growth Programme indicate the intention to move senior civil servants out of London in a way that promotes clusters of private businesses and universities. It’s too soon, however, to pass judgement on the success of these initiatives, with the most recent available statistics on the location of senior civil servants still showing a huge bias towards London, so this policy will remain ‘in progress’.

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