Working to make government more effective


Moving out: making a success of civil service relocation

The government’s plans to relocate 22,000 civil servants out of London will benefit recruitment but do little to “level up” the north-south divide.

Wolverhampton sign
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government will have a new home in Wolverhampton.

In its March 2020 budget, the UK government committed to moving 22,000 civil service jobs out of London by the end of the decade. Only 13% of the UK’s population live in London, but around two thirds of policy makers are based in the capital. Relocations are an opportunity to improve the capacity of the civil service, helping it to attract and retain talented staff who do not want to live in the capital.  

Ministers have said they want to move civil service jobs out of London as part of their levelling up agenda, and to ensure policy makers better reflect the whole of the UK population. But this report argues the government will struggle to meet all of its aims while also maintaining the quality of the civil service’s work and calls for the government to be realistic about what relocations can achieve. Instead, relocations should focus on improving the capacity of the civil service by widening the pool of highly skilled workers available to it.

This report outlines four tests of decisions on relocations that departments should satisfy:

  1. Does the labour market in the receiving location meet the department’s needs?
  2. Will the relocation result in a ‘critical mass’ of roles, including senior ones, in the new location?
  3. Has the department taken account of the plans of other central government departments, local government and industry?
  4. Do the department’s ministers and senior officials have a long-term plan to ensure the move is sustainable?
Institute for Government

Related content

20 JUL 2020 Online event
20 July 2020

Reform of the civil service

A series of events looking at the government's plans to reform the civil service.