London expenses cost taxpayer over £110m a year


By a Newsnet reporter

An SNP MP has called on the UK Government to disperse more civil service and quango jobs beyond Whitehall after parliamentary questions revealed that departments were spending in excess of £110 million a year on London weighting and living allowances for staff.

Questions from Mike Weir, SNP Business and Enterprise spokesperson at Westminster, uncovered that the UK goverment pays an additional £110,947,917 annually in additional allowances to cover the extra cost of living in London.

Mr Weir argued that Ministers could make major savings and boost the economies of communities around the country by dispersing civil servants to other areas of the UK.  Mr Weir suggested they could start with basing the Green Investment Bank in Scotland.

Commenting, Mr Weir said: “We hear a lot of talk about the big society and localism from the Coalition Government, but we have to see much more evidence of decentralisation or dispersal when it comes to Whitehall.

“Given the cost of these London weighting and living allowances the UK Government should see the dispersal of these subsidised Whitehall posts as a way of saving money and boosting the economy of communities across the country.

“The UK Government should recognise that, particularly in remote areas, even small numbers of additional jobs can make a significant difference to social and economic conditions.”

However despite the UK government’s commitment to slash public spending costs, they appear reluctant to move departments and staff to areas of the UK outside London.  

The department which pays out the largest slice on additional payments for staff living in London is the Department of Work and Pensions.  In answer to a Parliamentary question from Mr Weir, Chris Grayling MP, replied that the additional cost to the department is £45.317 million for 14,025 staff working in London.

However when Mr Weir questioned Mr Grayling on how many departmental staff had been relocated at public expense in the previous year, Mr Grayling replied that there had been just one.  A staff member was transferred from Northamptonshire to London.

The SNP MP commented: “It is incredible that the Department for Work and Pensions alone spends in excess of £45million a year on additional pay for staff working in Whitehall – and yet, the only relocation it has made over the last year was actually to London from Northamptonshire!”

Mr Weir added:  “There should be a fair dispersal of government jobs across the UK and Ministers should investigate further what can be done to spread civil service and quango jobs outside of London. They could start this process by basing the Green Investment Bank in Scotland.

“Bringing government closer to the people should be an ambition for Ministers and dispersing public sector jobs is one way to achieve this.”

The Green Investmet Bank was announced in May this year by UK Business Secretary Vince Cable.  It is designed to accelerate private investment into low carbon ventures.

This week the Scottish government agreed to contribute over £100 million from our fossil fuel levy fund in order to help the capitalisation of the bank.  The SNP believes that Scotland’s enormous renewable energy potential makes Edinburgh the obvious choice to locate the bank.