The Treasury aims to establish its much-trailed Northern campus, dubbed ‘Treasury North’, before the next election, and fresh details about the Government’s strategy to move thousands of civil servants out of London as part of the ‘levelling up’ agenda are expected in the coming weeks.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced in last year’s Budget that he wants to relocate 22,000 Whitehall civil servants to help devolve power from London to the regions.
Among his proposals are a new northern campus for the Treasury that would house an initial 750 staff – one-fifth of its total employees – alongside civil servants from other departments.
Sunak also unveiled plans in the Spending Review last November to set up an infrastructure bank in the North of England, that was intended to launch this spring.
The bank would co-invest alongside private sector investors, using loans, guarantees, equity and hybrid products, but the Treasury has not yet said where it would be based. It is understood that it could be in a different location to the Treasury North campus.
Reports so far have suggested that the campus could be located in Leeds, Newcastle or Teesside, although the Government is understood to also be considering one of the region’s other major cities, such as Manchester.
Under pre-existing plans, half of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s 450 London-based staff are to move to Manchester by 2025-26. The Foreign Office is also considering plans for a new Manchester base.
The Ministry of Justice, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Ministry of Defence are expected to announce plans to move staff out of Whitehall, while the Ministry of Communities, Housing and Local Government is reportedly considering a move to the Treasury North campus for some of its staff, and to a new office in Wolverhampton in the West Midlands for another chunk of its workforce, according to the Financial Times.
It is not yet known whether Northern cities will have a chance to bid to host any of the departments. Sunak is expected to make an announcement on the plans in the coming weeks alongside his Budget on March 3.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson told Place North West: “Decision makers should be close to the people they serve and we want to see opportunity, jobs and investment fairly distributed across the country.
“That’s why we’ve committed to relocating civil service roles out of central London, building on the thousands of civil servants we already have working across the UK.
“This will strengthen the Union, spread opportunity more equally and transform diversity of thought in the civil service.”
In his Spending Review last November, Sunak announced a £4bn “levelling up fund” to support infrastructure growth in the North of England and other regions outside London, with £600m to be made available in 2021/22.
The announcement came as a report by the centre-right think tank the Northern Policy Foundation (NFP) called for the mass relocation of thousands of civil servants.
The report, backed by Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, claimed that as much as 95% of the civil service could be moved out of London and that such a move could bring £3bn into the North’s economy.