The Department for Transport is setting up a second HQ in Birmingham and also a northern hub in Leeds as part of a plan to create 650 roles in the cities and reinforcing the government’s commitment to its levelling up agenda.
The moves form part of the government’s drive to move 22,000 Civil Service roles from the capital to communities across the UK by 2030. The Birmingham headquarters will include new ministerial offices, with ministers expected to spend a significant amount of time there as the government works to rebuild the UK.
The news of DfT creating a northern hub in Leeds comes on hot on the heels of the chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement earlier this month that the UK’s first-ever infrastructure bank will also be based in the city. It will be seen as a big boost for the north and has been welcomed by local politicians and business leaders, especially given the DfT’s huge role in levelling up the UK through investment in vital transport infrastructure and services.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “This is a historic move for the department and part of a significant wider culture change across Whitehall. Transport is absolutely vital to the local communities we serve and having hubs in major cities like Birmingham and Leeds will offer a fresh perspective on how we can better serve these areas.”
Susan Hinchcliffe, chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leader of Bradford Council, said: “This is another positive investment recognising our region’s strengths, following the decision to locate the UK infrastructure bank here, bringing benefits not just to Leeds but Bradford and the wider region. I hope it will help us as we make the compelling case for future investment in our transport system, to better connect our communities and raise living standards while cutting carbon emissions.”
Andy Street, the mayor of the West Midlands, said: “The West Midlands has undergone a transport revolution in recent years, with the reopening of old railway lines, expanded tram routes, and an upgraded green bus fleet, along with the rollout of e-scooters and a cycle hire scheme. The DfT will be right at home here and I look forward to welcoming the team to the best connected region in the UK.”
Maria Machancoses, CEO of Midlands Connect, said: “This is fantastic news for Birmingham and wider region. The Midlands plays a vital role at the heart of the UK transport network; it can now be at the centre of policymaking too. Moving skilled jobs and ministerial offices out our Westminster is an essential part of levelling-up. Birmingham is home to a wealth of talent and transport knowledge and I have no doubt this move will be a huge success.”
IPPR North research fellow Marcus Johns said: “The relocation of staff to Birmingham and Leeds is a welcome step. Although the number of jobs announced is relatively small, the location, perspectives and experiences of policymakers matters. For civil servants working on transport policy to experience England’s broken transport system daily should result in more enthusiasm to fix it. But this is not a panacea.
“Rearranging the furniture of Whitehall is not a substitute for devolving power. Relocation is not devolution. It does not replace jobs or capacity lost due to recent cuts to Transport for the North or long-term austerity faced by councils like Leeds City Council. We are one of the most centralised countries with legislative shackles around local government's ability to act. Only by reversing this and empowering local places to truly deliver on their priorities with powers and resources, will any government level up the UK.”