Calls for Whitehall jobs dispersal and an end to London subsidies

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By a Newsnet reporter

The Westminster Government should end the subsidies paid by Whitehall in order to keep civil service jobs in London according to the SNP.
 
The nationalists have insisted that more efforts need to be made to ensure a wider dispersal of jobs across the UK and claim the move would boost regional economies.

The SNP has also attacked a bill for regional pay plans put forward by the UK coalition saying that it would simply ensure the continuation of regional pay disparities.

The SNP’s Business and Enterprise spokesperson, Mike Weir MP, said substantial savings could be made from this bill by the decentralisation of government jobs, which would also boost struggling economies across the UK.
 
Mr Weir said:
 
“The government’s plans to introduce regional pay disparities is a wrong-footed move which will further entrench the imbalance in jobs and investment towards the south east.
 
“The two-tier system it would create would penalise civil servants across the land who will see their salaries cut while jobs are effectively subsidised in London.
 
“Rather than taking more cash from the pockets of hard pressed public servants, some of the £116 million used to subsidise London living could be recouped by redistributing  jobs where they are needed most.”

Currently an excess of £116 million is spent each year by Whitehall on London weighting and London living allowance for staff.  The subsidy is said to reflect higher living costs in the capital than elsewhere.

Mr Weir added:
 
“The extra costs incurred for London living are staggering – the Department for Work and Pensions alone picks up an additional bill of £45 million, while the only relocation over the last year has been from Northamptonshire to London.
 
“And in defence we see almost £11 million spent annually on London weighting and living allowances for staff, while Scotland has seen over 10,500 defence jobs lost since the last strategic defence review.
 
“By moving jobs out of London, rather than cutting salaries outside London, we can boost local economies, help build a fairer society and make savings at the same time.
 
“The UK government should call a halt to regional pay differences and explore instead how government jobs could be better spread across the UK.”

Questioned by Mr Weir last year on how many departmental staff had been relocated at public expense in the previous year, Cabinet Minister Chris Grayling replied that there had been just one.  A staff member was transferred from Northamptonshire to London.

Last October former Cabinet Minister Lord Heseltine urged David Cameron to relocate thousands of London based civil service jobs to Liverpool in order to boost the region’s economy.

In a report on how to assist the area, Mr Heseltine wrote: “These are not ‘pie in the sky’ ideas, but practical suggestions as to how the city region can build upon its existing strengths and shape its future to ensure that it remains competitive and prosperous.”