THE decision by then-Chancellor Rishi Sunak to relocate hundreds of civil servants to Darlington in March 2021 was a decision we welcomed after months of campaigning.

This wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction. For more than three decades, we have urged successive Prime Ministers to move Government departments north – and there are probably none more significant than the Treasury.

Read more: Darlington Treasury relocation praised as 'levelling up'

The Northern Echo:

The thinking? For levelling up to be truly achieved, decisions need to be made by officials in the areas they are looking to improve, not hundreds of miles away in different environments. They need to understand the issues that matter to people in the North East, and they can only do that by living and working here.

Today’s new study into the civil service relocation to the Darlington Economic Campus has detailed the positive impacts it has had on the area - but warns it must receive continued support from the government for it to prove successful. 

The Institute for Government (IFG) found the launch of the Darlington site opened doors for local people to work in the civil service, who wouldn’t normally have access to such jobs, and helped improve areas suffering from workforce issues. The IFG interviewed local politicians, businesses and civil servants based in both Darlington and London to find out if the relocation had worked. 

The Northern Echo:

But it noted the campus is still early in its existence. Its continued success will rely on retaining some of the qualities that have contributed to its initial success, as well as ensuring there is a continued senior civil service presence at the site.

The relocation can’t be just a short-term fix to win votes for an election. It has to form part of a longer-term strategy that permanently changes how decisions are made by politicians and officials.

Like we have seen earlier this week with concerning child poverty figures, these are the real issues that need to be addressed by levelling up.

A shiny new office block in Darlington won’t fix that, but the people working inside it can – if the right decisions are made.