BUDGET 2020 | Whitehall to create Northern hub

Plans to set up an “economic campus” in the North of England and relocate up to 22,000 civil servants out of the capital were announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak

The move is intended to help devolve power from London to the regions and “change the mindset of Government to ensure economic decision making reflects the economic geography of the country”, he said, as he unveiled his budget for 2020-2025 on Wednesday.

Under the plans, an initial 750 Treasury staff – one-fifth of its total employees – would be relocated to the campus, followed by more stafff from teams from DfT, BEIS and MHCLG, in the coming years.

It is not yet known where the campus, which will be focussed on economic decision making, will be located, or whether Northern cities will have a chance to bid to host the hub.

However, Ben Houchen, Tees Valley mayor, tweeted recently that the campus should not be given to Manchester of Leeds.

Jessica Bowles, director of strategy at Bruntwood, said: “Our current centres of power in London must get closer to the regions and so it’s heartening to see concrete plans to move elements of Whitehall outside of the capital. The people making policy need to experience the reality of the UK regions in order to understand them.”

John Keyes, Manchester-based chair of public sector at Cushman & Wakefield: “A budget that supports public services, invests at historic levels in capital projects and infrastructure, supports research and development and moves civil servants out of London should be very good news for Manchester and the North West.

“We need to look out for how the money is actually allocated but North West public bodies and businesses need to be gearing up to exploit the new opportunities. Manchester is particularly well placed to attract government jobs, exploiting the pools of graduates and other skilled people within easy access of the city. The wider region will need to ensure it benefits from investment in town and city growth, including places like Preston.”

As talk of levelling up the regions continues, news of a review of the ‘green book’, the system used by the Treasury to guide decisions on policies, programmes and projects, will be welcomed by Manchester City Council chief executive Joanne Roney who called for Dominic Cummins to “rip it up” at a Forum for the Built Environment event last month.

The green book is perceived by many outside London to have skewed investment in favour of the South East.

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