Civil Service: Tied to London?

In its March 2020 budget, the Government set out its aim of moving 22,000 civil service jobs out of London by the end of the decade. This is part of its ‘levelling-up’ policy agenda. Writing for the Institute for Government, Sarah Nickson, Erenie Mullens-Burgess and Alex Thomas assess the feasibility of this goal and examine the possible consequences for local areas.

The authors state that there would be two ways for the Government to achieve its relocation aims. It could either:

  • devolve decision making powers to local and city regions, taking decision making power away from central Government; or
  • move central Government departments to cities and towns outside of London, but retain the same power structure, with no further devolved power to local and regional authorities.

The authors state that the fact the Government has chosen the second of these options may have created potential problems.

One potential problem is relocating to areas unable to cope with the imposition. The authors warn that the Government needs to pick its locations carefully. Smaller towns and cities may struggle to accommodate large Government departments. If large numbers of existing staff fail to relocate from London, smaller towns and cities may also struggle to provide a sufficient talent pool for relocated departments.

The authors propose the following four tests to aid Government decision makers in their relocation plans:

  • Does the labour market in the receiving location meet the department’s needs?
  • Will the relocation result in a ‘critical mass’ of roles, including senior ones, in the new location?
  • Has the department taken account of the plans of other central government departments and local government?
  • Do the department’s ministers and senior officials have a long-term plan to ensure the move is sustainable?

The authors conclude that the pandemic has, to some extent, illustrated the potential for a less London-centric way of working for the civil service. However, they warn that relocation is a long-term commitment and that decisions taken now will set new, relocated offices up for success or failure in the future.

Read the full article: Sarah Nickson, Erenie Mullens-Burgess and Alex Thomas, Moving out: Making a success of civil service relocation, Institute for Government, 11 November 202

Parliamentary Research Services: A Vital Tool

Writing in the Journal of Legislative Studies, David Jagr explores the importance of research services to the functioning of parliaments. He states that “informed politicians are in a better position to make the right and free decisions.” Despite this, Jagr states that academic research into how parliamentary research and information services have developed is relatively sparse.

To address this research gap, Jagr focuses on the Czech Parliamentary Institute (CPI) as a case study. The CPI was founded in the early 1990s and is part of the Office of the Chamber of Deputies (the lower house of the Czech parliament). Unlike the libraries of the Westminster parliament, the CPI is separate from the Czech Parliamentary Library, and serves both houses in the Czech parliament.

Jagr focuses on how the CPI contributes to the quality of the legislative process in the Czech Republic and how it affects lawmakers’ decision-making. He contrasts the CPI today with the lack of similar institutions in the “undemocratic era”, stating that at this time “expertise and information flows were strongly subordinated to ideology.” Jagr also provides an in-depth history of the CPI, from the initial assistance setting up the service received from the United State Congress, to the work the CPI carried out around the Czech Republic’s accession to the European Union in 2004.

Jagr concludes by stating the importance of the founding of the CPI in the Czech Republic’s transition to democracy in the early 1990s and in its European integration in the 2000s. He states that the number of enquiries received by the CPI is increasing to record levels, and that legislators particularly appreciate its objectivity.

Read the full article: David Jagr, ‘Parliamentary research services as expert resource of lawmakers: The Czech way’, The Journal of Legislative Studies, 29 October 2020.