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UK Government Plays The Relocation Game Again. Are The Dice Loaded?

Whitehall, the heart of British government

The UK’s Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority will be moving to Birmingham, ministers have decided.

The decision means potentially 400 jobs transferring to the Midlands, suggesting a requirement of 20K-30K SF. The new regulator is expected to be in operation by 2024.

The decision is the latest in a series of announcements intended to help transfer 22,000 central government jobs from London to the regions after a decade in which civil service jobs concentrated in the capital.

However, the plan is far from certain. Legislation has yet to be approved, and final decisions are some way off, The Financial Times reported.

The history of civil service relocations is not encouraging. Ofqual — the agency responsible for overseeing public examinations — relocated to Coventry in 2009. Today it has 240 staff but reports suggested just half originally relocated from London.

Large-scale Whitehall relocation has been an ambition of several governments over the last two decades. The Boris Johnson government made some progress with announcements, but research by the Institute for Government suggests that efforts to relocate jobs are, much of the time, doomed to failure because they are driven by political imperatives, not by local skills and labour markets.

A report into the success or failure of relocations called “for the government to be realistic about what relocations can achieve”, adding that “relocations should focus on improving the capacity of the civil service by widening the pool of highly skilled workers available to it.”

How the new BBC studios in Birmingham could look.

The record of home-grown or indigenous public sector jobs growth is more encouraging.

Yesterday consultations began on the 84K SF new BBC Studios to be developed in Birmingham’s Typhoo Tea Factory. The transaction is the largest office pre-let in the city for the past three years.

Stoford is working with The Gooch Estate, Glenn Howells Architects, Turley and a number of public sector partners to deliver one of Birmingham’s first net-zero-carbon buildings in construction and to prepare a comprehensive vision around Typhoo Wharf and the wider area.

Should Birmingham City Council give it the go-ahead, construction is expected to start on-site in early 2023, ready for occupation by the BBC in 2026.

The wider scheme will also see the transformation of more than 10 acres of underutilised land around the site, including new public spaces around Typhoo Wharf and the adjoining canal basin. Stoford plans to deliver up to 800K SF of new residential, office and hospitality accommodation over the next five to 10 years.