Government urged to move departments out of Whitehall ‘to provide Brexit boost’

Written by Richard Johnstone on 16 March 2017 in News

A “radical” drive to move departments out of London would help regions adapt following Brexit, say consultants

In a report examining what the government’s economic strategy should be following Brexit, the Management Consultancies Association said the UK must implement an “ambitious and transformative” plan to boost growth following the exit from the European Union.

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In what it called management consulting’s green paper on industrial policy, the MCA, said the UK’s departure from the EU must give a boost the government’s localism and devolution policies.

Ministers must focus on a radical extension of powers to local areas, which should include a specific aim to move to departments outside of London, Paul Connolly, the MCA Think Tank director said.

"The Brexit vote revealed that for many people outside London and the south-east the UK's return to growth is at best a rumour. To counter this, government needs to be much bolder about devolving power and opportunity,” he stated.

“Any agency that doesn't have to be in London shouldn't be. And these moves should be counterparted by incentives in the tax and planning systems to encourage more business to relocate too."

He highlighted that the relocation of elements of the BBC to Salford was a force for social transformation, and shifting Whitehall departments out of the capital could provide a similar boost.

“These measures would help kick start regional economies, creating new local multipliers and driving cultural change,” Connolly added.

The review set a test that where a government function or agency doesn’t require direct access to ministers, then the government should institute a presumption against its being located in the capital.

It has been estimated that around 20,000 civil service posts were moved out of London following the 2004 government-commissioned Lyons Review, which called for Whitehall headquarters to be radically slimmed down and a “strongly-enforced presumption against London and south-east locations for new government bodies and activities”.

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Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy editor and tweets as @RichRJohnstone

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