Relocation review ‘a recipe for disjointed government’


Relocation review ‘a recipe for disjointed government’

The government’s relocation policy will fail if it is driven by cost-cutting and not standards of service, Prospect warned. Criticising the Lyons review of public sector relocation, Paul Noon, General Secretary, said: "The civil service must be efficient and effective, not just cheap. Joined-up government will take a huge step backwards if staff and functions are dispersed regardless of the consequences."

The specialists’ union sees the biggest danger of moving 27,000 jobs – as recommended by Lyons – out of London and the south-east as the increasing divorce of service delivery from policy. "This can only reinforce the age-old British problem of an administrative ‘elite’ lording it over those with expertise who do a professional job. We need more professionals at the heart of Government, not fewer." Quality of service should be the only criterion for location, said Noon.

Attacking Lyons’ proposal that the civil service should adopt local pay rates, Noon said: "That would be utterly counter-productive.

"Nothing could do more damage to the concept of a national service. Skilled workers will migrate from areas of low pay to those with higher pay – in practice that means London and the south-east. Engineers, scientists and other specialists operate inside a national labour market and will not allow themselves to be marooned in distant, lower paid ghettos. They will simply move out.

"We fear this review is more about helping government to cut its wage bill than improving standards to the public. The fact the Chancellor will give the Government’s verdict on Lyons in his budget speech on Wednesday gives the game away."

NOTES: Prospect represents 105,000 members in specialist grades, including 40,000 public servants. Technical posts amount to about 15% of those targeted for relocation by Lyons.

The number of civil servants working in London and the south-east fell by 4,680 in the five years to April 2002, according to the Government’s Civil Service Statistics 2002. In 2002, 17.7% of civil servants worked in London, compared to 18.2% in 1997; and 11.7% of civil servants worked in the south-east, compared to 13.1% in 1997. Twenty-six per cent of the UK population lives in London and the south-east.