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97 per cent of senior civil servants at the 'Northern Powerhouse' department are based in London

The civil service's top brass has shifted back to London under David Cameron

Jon Stone
Monday 07 March 2016 13:58 GMT
The civil service is largely based on or off Whitehall in Westminster
The civil service is largely based on or off Whitehall in Westminster (Getty)

Over 97 per cent of senior officials at the Government department responsible for the so-called “Northern Powerhouse” work in London, it has been revealed.

The project, announced by George Osborne under the Coalition, has the stated aim of rebalancing the economy away from London and towards the North of England.

But figures released by ministers top senior civil servant jobs have actually shifted towards London since David Cameron came to power.

In April 2010 65.1 per cent of senior civil servants across all departments worked in London, while April 2015 saw the figure rise to 67 per cent.

At the department tasked with delivering the Northern Powerhouse, DCLG, 97.6 per cent of senior civil servants are based in London.

George Osborne has promised to rebalance the economy towards the North of England (Reuters)

The number come after the Government announced plans at the start of this year to close the business department's Sheffield office at St Paul’s place, relocating staff to London.

BIS’s permanent secretary Martin Donnelly says that closure, slated for 2018, will create “more streamlined structures” within the Department. BIS is the other department heavily involved in the Northern Powerhouse project.

The figures on the locations of civil servants were released by ministers in response to parliamentary questions by Sheffield Labour MP Louise Haigh.

She told the Guardian newspaper, which first reported the stats, that the Conservatives were seeking to “increasingly insulate themselves in a London bubble of policy advisers and decision makers”.

The re-Londonisation of the civil service jars with the rhetoric of the Government over the issue of regional development.

“Rebalancing our national economy, ensuring that the economic future of the north is as bright, if not brighter, than other parts of the UK, is the ambition we should set ourselves,” the Chancellor said in January 2015.

The so-called Northern Powerhouse is based around improvements to transport links and cooperation business local businesses and local authorities.

The project has been hit by various setbacks since its announcement, however.

In October last year the minister in charge of the powerhouse, James Wharton, said he was tired of being “attacked” by the Northern Echo newspaper and refused to speak to it.

Critics have also highlighted the end of thousands of steel industry jobs in the region and the Government’s refusal to bail out manufacturers.

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