Settling in

Think tank: Institute for Government

Author(s): Jordan Urban; Thomas Pope; Alex Thomas

June 9, 2023

This report from UK think tank the Institute for Government looks at the lessons from the Darlington Economic Campus for civil service relocation.

The relocation of parts of the civil service to Darlington is proving beneficial for government – but ministers shouldn’t see civil service relocation as a primary tool for reducing regional economic inequality. This paper draws on interviews with local politicians, local businesses and civil servants based in both Darlington and London – with the Darlington Economic Campus (DEC), announced in the March 2021 budget, currently housing around 600 staff from multiple departments on top of 700 from the Department for Education. It says the Darlington relocation has allowed talented people who cannot or do not want to live or work in London to contribute more effectively to the civil service and diversify its thinking and helped to change the way policy is made by exposing policy makers to different realities across the country and breaking down Whitehall siloes. Around 80% of the staff at the Darlington Economic Campus are recruited from the north of England and the remaining 20% have relocated from London. The paper also finds that the campus has increased local pride in the area and provided a modest economic boost. But the number of relocated roles is not substantial enough to meaningfully reduce regional inequality and with almost 80% of the civil service already based outside London, civil service relocation cannot be a primary tool of ‘levelling up’.