Communities secretary Robert Jenrick, who was born in Wolverhampton and went to Wolverhampton Grammar School, said that he planned to have at least 500 staff working for him in his home town by 2025, with further increases planned by 2030.
The implication was that 500 of the 1,700+ staff based in Whitehall would either have to relocate or lose their jobs.
However, his announcement said nothing specific about London staffing levels that were planned – only Wolverhampton jobs. So staff in the regional HQ could be in addition to Whitehall rather than instead of.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) already has an operation in Warrington, in the shape of Homes England.
MCHLG expects to announce the new building for the headquarters in the spring.
Mr Jenrick said that the move to Wolverhampton was part of government policy to “level up opportunity and prosperity across the regions”.
His department currently has 300 roles outside of London and plans to increase this to 800 by 2030 – including 50% of the most senior positions. “This will ensure that more local voices are reflected in the creation of government policy,” is the official line.
Robert Jenrick said that his own office would move to Wolverhampton and he would be based there.
He said: “As communities secretary, I am determined to spread opportunity and prosperity to every part of our nation. That is why I am delighted to be taking the historic step of moving significant numbers of senior roles out of Whitehall and creating the first ever ministerial office outside of Westminster in Wolverhampton – increasing the jobs in the Midlands to over 500.
“With a dual headquarters in Wolverhampton my department will not only change where we work but how we work, signalling the end of the Whitehall knows best approach. All of us at the department are looking forward to having the opportunity to work there.
“This government knows that by having more local voices at the heart of our policy development and delivery, we will support our communities more effectively, and we will continue to develop greater career options in government outside of London.
“In choosing the city of Wolverhampton we are also backing our great smaller cities, some of which have been neglected for too long. We want to raise their stature, encourage civic pride and commercial success.”
Or as one cynic commented: “Senior civil servants working from home in Stoke Poges will now be able to not come into the office in Wolverhampton instead of not coming into London.”