Manchester's Mayfield was once hoped to be the location of a a "Whitehall of the North" before Government pulled the plans in 2010

MIPIM UK | Government eyes regional cities for more department relocations

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

Willmott Dixon PNG

Place North West partner

The Government is months away from defining its plans for locating “tens of thousands of people into large and developed regional cities”, according to the Government Property Unit.

The GPU was created in 2010 to create efficiencies across the Government estate, and is co-ordinating the regional hubs programme which is seeing 18 large offices created around the UK to co-locate local public sector departments, including 13 hubs with the HMRC. The HMRC last month confirmed its letting of 350,000 sq ft in Liverpool’s India Buildings.

Speaking at MIPIM UK, Simon Morris, advisor to the GPU, said that alongside the regional hubs scheme, the advisory body was also pulling together a massive body of work, known as the ‘public bodies relocation programme’, which is aiming to move out all non-ministerial Government departments currently located within London and its 60-mile radius, into cities across the UK.

Morris called the re-location work “the largest Government rationalization there has ever been”. The programme forms part of the Government’s industrial strategy published earlier this year, but was only briefly mentioned in the report and has received little focus in the press.

Morris said the GPU was looking to create clusters of similar types of departments and allocate them to different cities, “for instance a health cluster in Leeds, financial in Edinburgh, and culture in Manchester”.

Alongside, the GPU would encourage private sector organisations to take space in the areas.

The GPU is working on the location analysis and defining its target cities, particularly focusing on cities with strengths in transport connectivity, universities, and skills.

While choosing areas that people would wish to live in was key to the GPU’s project, Morris also conceded that he expected departments to lose “up to 75% of there staff” if they confirmed a move out of the capital. This could mean significant job creation for the cities outside of London.

A Government Property Unit location in Manchester has been on the cards for a number of years, with the requirement size veering from 250,000 sq ft up to 950,000 sq ft, linked to sites such as Mayfield which was once hoped to become the home of a “Whitehall of the North” before the coalition Government shelved plans in 2010.

Morris said the Government was supportive of the relocation plans: “Number 10 said this is not about saving money, it’s about driving growth across the UK.”

Securing major Government office requirements would be a game-changer for many of the country’s regional cities, but especially for places such as Liverpool with a struggling office market and a need to create more private sector jobs. While there are several large-scale office development on the cards, for instance at Pall Mall and Liverpool Waters, sizable pre-lets are required to get them out of the ground.

  • MIPIM UK coverage was brought to you in association with Willmott Dixon. Place North West can be found on stand H34

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Chester and Liverpool need to be in the mix too.


If Liverpool hadn’t allowed so many of its large India Building siblings on and around Water Street to be wasted on conversion to residential rabbit hutches it could have been host to many of these jobs. Hey ho. At least the people at the council still have their jobs.

By Mike

Nice fat hand outs from the taxpayer to relocate these people,so they can live in West Didsbury no doubt.Maybe if I relocated to London,the government would allow me a flat overlooking Richmond Park? Will this be Mediacity part 2?

By Elephant

Mike – While it sometime is, its not always the councils fault. They couldn’t prevent the conversion through the planning process, see below:

By A Transport Planner

Can someone please ‘advise’ Simon Morris that there is a city called Liverpool that was European Capital of Culture – and has around 1.5m people living in its metro area. Oh, and it’s near Manchester if that helps orientate the GPU. Thank you.

By LEighteen

I also find it odd that Leeds is being lined up for a ‘health cluster’. Liverpool’s Paddington site in the Knowledge Quarter is shaping up to be of international significance with LSTM, Royal College of Physicians, two new hospitals and possibly a third, a proton therapy centre, two universities, Sensor City, Health Incubator, and likely much more to follow.

There’s nowt like backing your winners…

By Deebee

My bet is that liverpool will end up with English Heritage, so the state can continue to wrap it up in aspic, while other cities are let off the leash with the industries of tomorrow.

By Deebee

@Deebee and Leeds as the financial capital of the North misses out to Edinburgh.

By Stormer

@stormer – the presence of a few call centres in Leeds does not make it a financial capital. That was always more PR than reality.

By Monsoon

@Monsoon you’re wrong, Leeds is the largest legal and financial centre outside London.

By Stormer

If there are 18 locations identified then surely both Liverpool and Manchester will be included on that list? Maybe even Chester and Preston will get a look in too?


@stormer By what metric?

By Monsoon

Might be worth pointing out that Leeds already has a huge Department of Health office (Quarry House) to which a lot of civil servants were shipped in the ’90s…

By Dennis Nails

@Monsoon, by every metric, look it up, Leeds beats Manchester in the legal and financial sector.

By Stormer

Dennis – yes, Leeds is already home to many NHS operations including the technical HQ of NHS England. Makes perfect sense.

Edinburgh is more of a financial capital than Leeds, but to describe Leeds’ financial centre as being ‘a few call centres’ is incredibly ignorant.

By Leyton

@stormer. As I thought – you don’t know. The reality is that it’s a piece of 20 year old meaningless PR based on the number of people employed in a small area, most of whom are call centre operatives for Halifax and First Direct. That’s not a “financial capital” by any serious measure.

By Monsoon

Tried to look that up Stormer, saw that the legal sector is growing faster in Leeds than any other city but can’t find any stats for comparative size. Do you have a link? Genuinely interested.

By Logenberry

There is talk now that Channel 4 are moving staff to Manchester? The Guardian too is supposed to be moving back to the old Granada studios.Manchester will get the lions share of these projects.Everyone knows it.

By Elephant

A Transport Planner – Yes, it is the council’s fault as they are the ones who needed to secure the exception, they are also the ones who could have resisted through other means (local policy, WHS impact, demand studies, critical analysis of cases put forward). They are the ones who are supposed to be representing the city’s interests.

The failure to protect the city’s employment from the ravages of these conversions is an appalling one, which should have been a source of local uproar at the time, and should be a matter for national level conversation and inquiry even now, not something to be brushed under the carpet as if it doesn’t matter or as if no one is responsible.

By Mike

Growth rate is not size, nor does it describe the value added.

By Monsoon

Monsoon can you prove that Manchester has a bigger financial sector than Leeds? No

By Maron