The government has admitted to shadow Cabinet Office minister Louise Haigh that in one department, DCLG, responsible for the 'northern powerhouse', 97% of top civil servants are based in London, as reported by the Guardian. This follows the announcement by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – a key department tasked with helping businesses and improving skills across the country – that it plans to close its Sheffield office and move 250 jobs to central London.
The figures were released in response to questions by the Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley.
She said they undermined the government's “northern powerhouse” agenda. “How can the Tories possibly claim devolution of power and investment tops their agenda, when they increasingly insulate themselves in a London bubble of policy advisers and decision makers? With policies driven from Whitehall not the town hall, it’s no wonder that cities across the north are forced to rely on scraps,” she said.
“Moving the civil service out of London has been a positive trend spanning decades giving government eyes and ears around the country, but astonishingly the Tories have reversed that policy, revealing their utter contempt for the perspective of people from cities and regions outside of the capital. They have even scrapped their minister for decentralisation, suggesting they can’t even be bothered to keep up the pretence.”
Separately, equalities minister Nicky Morgan's education department has been found by Labour's Lucy Powell to pay women £3,400 less than men, despite her pledge to close the gender pay gap, as reported by the Daily Mirror. The department's own figures show its male civil servants earn £22.30 a hour on average but women £20.54.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The civil service must do more to look like the country it provides public services to, but moving key functions back to central London means it risks going backwards.
“The gender pay gap in many departments is still shocking but tackling this is made all the more difficult by the fact there are more than 200 separate sets of salary negotiations across the civil service.”