Relocation – on our terms

28 April 2010

The government’s proposals to relocate thousands of civil servants from London need to be negotiated with the union says research officer Imogen Radford

The government announced in the March budget that it will relocate 15,000 civil servants from London in the next five years and a third of all London civil servants over the next 10.

The proposals are outlined in a report written by Ian Smith, the former chief executive of publisher Reed Elsevier.

The main stated aim is to save money for taxpayers, though the government also says that it will bring government closer to the people and regenerate areas across the UK’s regions, who will be able to bid for civil servants to come to their part of the country. Departments, agencies and non-departmental public bodies (NDPB) will have to review where they are based.

The report proposes setting up ‘public service campuses’ in the regions, housing clusters of civil servants.

At the same time, the plans seek to reduce the presence of civil servants in London, in an attempt to limit their numbers to those that need to be close to ministers, and move the rest out to these regional clusters. This includes back-office work, policy work and the headquarters of national organisations and departments. Those civil servants that need to be in or near London can be moved to areas of London or the south east that need regeneration.

Departments will have to do work together and justify location choices to the Treasury.

What is PCS doing?

PCS will be talking to the government nationally about what their proposals mean in detail, and in departments and agencies and NDPBs our PCS reps will be doing the same.

We will look at any plans to relocate, studying the business plans and equality impact assessments, and negotiating to protect members’ jobs, terms and conditions.

We have a relocation forum that brings together reps from across the union to look at the issues and coordinate arguments and negotiations.

Our position is that there must be no compulsory moves, there must be full equality impact assessments of any proposals for relocation, compulsory redundancies must be avoided, and there should be full negotiation with the union.

PCS has had some successes in negotiating on relocation proposals, and where relocations have gone ahead we have negotiated the best outcome possible for members involved.

Case study

Lisa Ash works in the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency.

She moved from London to Coventry in September 2008:

“I’m here on a trial period, which has been extended to two years – until September this year – as the new office wasn’t ready until January this year. The relocation went fairly smoothly. We were given our options, though they would obviously prefer us to relocate, and lots of people chose not to.

Working itself is actually better. My costs have come down, I can rent somewhere close to work so my work-life balance has improved, and the new office is lovely.

There are a few issues with the department’s staff being caught between two places, but it’s worked for me.

The key to making relocation a success is to give everybody lots of information and give them choices, make sure people see their new offices, and give them some flexibility so that changes suit their individual circumstances.

There have been downsides – leaving family and friends in London, and I do have the option of moving back at any point in my trial period, but at least this move didn’t cost. I’ve relocated a fair bit – I’ve lived in Birmingham, Bristol, Portsmouth and south Wales (where I’m from), but this was the easiest move I’ve done.”

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