Home Office to set up ‘innovation centre’ in Stoke

Hub for 500 asylum workers forms part of drive to move thousands of civil service posts out of the capital 

Stoke-on-Trent city skyline   Credit: Rept0n1x/CC BY-SA 2.0 ​

The Home Office will open a new “innovation centre” in Stoke-on-Trent as part of a push to move 3,000 more civil service roles out of London by 2025, the prime minister has said, as he announced a series of moves to drive forward his “levelling up” agenda.

Boris Johnson announced the moved this week as he allocated funding under his urban renewal plan to boost high streets and schools across the country.

The Home Office will move 1,950 roles out of London over the next four years, Johnson said, including 500 to the Stoke-on-Trent hub. The so-called innovation centre will accommodate case-working roles and an asylum hub, the department said in an announcement.

“The plans will bring operational, policy and corporate functions to the city, providing a pipeline of exciting career paths for the local community with an apprentice first policy for hiring at junior grades,” it said.

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BEIS will meanwhile move 865 roles to six locations across the UK: Salford, Birmingham, Cardiff, Darlington, Belfast and Edinburgh. The roles will be moved through “natural turnover”, creating jobs in regional offices as and when vacancies arise from London so that existing staff will not be made to move, the department said.

Home secretary Priti Patel said it was important that Home Office staff “represent the communities they serve”, while business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the relocations would “ensure central government hears the voice of local communities louder and clearer than ever before, while creating hubs of economic opportunity and growth across the UK”.

The moves will contribute to the government’s goal of moving 22,000 civil service jobs out of London and the southeast by 2030 – a key plank of the levelling-up agenda to increase opportunity and boost productivity across the UK.

The prime minister also confirmed 57 areas that had been selected as provisional beneficiaries of the £830m future high streets fund will receive funding.

Grimsby, Penzance, Walsall, Crewe and 53 other areas will each receive between £1m and £17.2m, which they will use on projects such as building performance venues, repurposing vacant retail space into offices and hospitality venues, and setting up food halls or cinemas. 

A total of 72 towns have now had their bids officially confirmed, including the 57 which were provisionally allocated funding in December.

The prime minister also announced this morning that four areas – Plymouth, Ashfield and Mansfield, South Sefton and North Liverpool, and North Durham and City – will each receive a share of £10m to increase the quality of teaching on offer.

The areas, which all have lower than average numbers of pupils in good or outstanding Ofsted-rated schools, will also be encouraged to join multi-academy trusts. Johnson also confirmed the government would continue to fund the Opportunity Areas programme, allocating £18m to the programme for the fifth year running.

Blackpool, Derby, Oldham and West Somerset will receive a cash injection under Opportunity Areas, which provides extra government funding and support to improve educational outcomes and job opportunities in social-mobility “cold spots”.

Johnson said the funding allocations showed the government had “renewed its commitment to levelling up and tackling the issues that really matter to people”.

“Levelling up” was a key plank of the Conservatives 2019 general election campaign, but numerous watchdogs and think tanks have said the agenda has been lost amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Making sure our children get the best possible education, transforming our town centres and correcting the regional imbalance of public sector roles – this is levelling up in action,” the PM said.

“Not only will we beat the pandemic and recover from its impact, I am determined to seize the opportunity it presents to create a fairer society, improve lives and build back better once and for all.”


Sam Trendall

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