Levelling Up: Making a success of relocations

Illustration by Katy Smith
March 3, 2021
United Kingdom
Levelling up

In spring 2020, the UK government pledged to move 22,000 civil service jobs out of London by 2030. The strategy forms a key part of prime minister Boris Johnson’s plans to “level up” areas outside the South-East and promote civil service reform.

Relocations will bring “decision-makers close to people” and support fair distribution of “opportunity, jobs and investment”, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has said. And work is already afoot: new hub offices are planned in cities including Belfast, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and Nottingham, while Peterborough is set to welcome 1,000 civil servants from HM Passport Office and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from 2022.

But previous efforts to decentralise staff have had mixed results: in the late 2000s, for example, the Office for National Statistics moved to Newport in Wales, but 90% of its London staff stayed put – leaving the agency with resource and skills shortages. Bringing together senior leaders and topical experts, this webinar considered how civil service bodies can make a success of relocations – including topics such as which functions to move and which locations to choose; how to support collaboration and career progression in a distributed workforce; and the likely impact of changes to working practices prompted by the pandemic.

In an era of remote working, a more dispersed civil service could broaden the talent pool and diversify the workforce, while spreading public investment more evenly across the country. This webinar explored how to realise the opportunities – and avoid the pitfalls.


Steven Boyd MBE, Chief Executive Officer, Government Property Agency, Cabinet Office, United Kingdom

Steven is the Chief Executive of the Government Property Agency. GPA is seeking to change the way that Government manages property. It is gradually becoming the landlord for Central Government’s offices, establishing new ways to manage them as a strategic asset, disposing of poor condition properties and building new, and setting up new customer-friendly service contracts.

Prior to joining the GPA, Steven was Estates Director for HMRC, where he was responsible for the provision of the estates service to 80,000 staff. He oversaw the transformation of HMRC’s estate leading Phase One of the Government Hubs Programme enabling modern ways of working in HMRC, disposing of 140 properties, providing significantly enhanced facilities at 13 major city centre sites, and saving £ 90 million annually.

Steven is a highly experienced chartered engineer. Before HMRC, he served in the Royal Engineers delivering property solutions in the UK and overseas, leaving the Army as Director of Infrastructure. During his service he led Defence’s internal construction project management consultancy working worldwide, and designed and built Camp Bastion, a major UK operational base in Afghanistan.

Philip Rycroft, former Permanent Secretary, Department for Exiting the European Union, United Kingdom

Philip Rycroft worked in the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) between March 2017 and March 2019, from October 2017 as Permanent Secretary. He was responsible for leading the department in all its work on the Government’s preparations for Brexit. From June 2015 to March 2019 he was head of the UK Governance Group in the Cabinet Office, with responsibility for advising ministers on all aspects of the constitution and devolution. From May 2012 to May 2015, he was the Director General in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg.

Through his career, Philip worked in a variety of roles, in the civil service in Scotland and London, in the European Commission and in business. He is now a non-executive director, academic and independent consultant.

Jenny Rydon, Partner, Montagu Evans

As a strategic property advisor for the public sector, Jenny brings together an organisational, economic and social perspective when helping clients address their property challenges.

By actively listening to a mix of stakeholders, and providing thorough due diligence, Jenny problem solves through effective portfolio planning, enabling efficiencies, and strategy design and implementation in order to improve the performance of their estate and associated business operations.

With extensive experience across a comprehensive portfolio of projects, Jenny is able to navigate the often complex public sector stakeholder environment and approval processes to deliver successful results. Working with estates professionals, business leaders, finance teams and private sector partners, Jenny is able to deliver on large scale programmes throughout the planning and development lifecycle that aims to unlock value, drive efficiency and enable her clients to achieve their overarching business objectives. She works to ensure that strategic direction, organisation culture, customer experience, workforce and processes, tools and systems are considered in any property related decision.

Angela Barnicle, Chief Officer – Asset Management & Regeneration, Leeds City Council, United Kingdom

Angela has a passion for cities, economic development and with it delivering transformational change and inclusive growth. Having worked extensively across the UK advising on large scale city development and transport schemes, organisational design and place positioning, Angela now leads the Asset Management and Regeneration Service for Leeds City Council. Here Angela focuses on realising the development opportunities and optimum real estate solutions to support the growth of the City.

The Service is currently engaged in a number of Place Programmes across the Leeds City Region including the delivery of the East Leeds Orbital Extension, which will release an additional 5,000 homes for the City, the ongoing redevelopment of the South Bank which will knit together the network of neighbourhood which make up the city centre and the Leeds Innovation District. In addition, Angela leads the programme team for the Leeds City Region High Speed Growth Strategy and Leeds City Railway station redevelopment.