The Government has provided limited justification for moving government jobs out of Whitehall - including to Darlington - and exaggerated the policy’s success, MPs have said.

A cross-party committee of MPs said announcements were made in a “somewhat piecemeal fashion” without details on the rationale, targets, costs, or benefits.

This “striking” lack of published information on the relocation policy hinders scrutiny of its “design and progress” and makes it hard to assess whether the relocation target is “sufficiently ambitious, or indeed realistic”, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) concluded.

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Part of the government’s flagship levelling-up policy announced in then-Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s March 2021 budget included 750 Treasury jobs for Darlington.

The town beat off competition from Newcastle, Leeds, and Bradford to be home of the Treasury’s second HQ in the North.

But the committee said the decision open an economic campus in Darlington “has been linked with the close proximity of the town to then chancellor Rishi Sunak’s constituency and with the suggestion that Darlington is a key ‘red wall’ seat”.

It later added: “In some of its communications [the Cabinet Office] is adopting a boosterish approach to reporting progress, which is likely to give an exaggerated picture of its achievements.”

In March this year it was announced 11,000 civil servant jobs had been relocated from London, half of 22,000 jobs the Government hopes to move by 2030.

The Northern Echo: Chancellor Jeremy Hunt at the Darlington Economic CampusChancellor Jeremy Hunt at the Darlington Economic Campus (Image: Newsquest)

Darlington MP Peter Gibson said: “The decision to place the Northern Economic Campus In Darlington has been a master stroke in levelling up, bringing well paid job opportunities to our community, delivering at least £85m to our local economy and changing the mindset of the civil service getting them out of department silos.

“The members of the PACAC should have watched the Institute of Government event from earlier in the week.

“The last thing Darlington needs is more people In London telling us that we should not have something we worked hard for.

“Darlington has characteristics of a red wall seat, but it does not fulfil the same criteria as many others that are clearly red wall seats.

“The Darlington Economic Campus has an unstoppable momentum and is not just delivering for Darlington but for the rest of the UK.”

The Northern Echo: Darlington MP Peter GibsonDarlington MP Peter Gibson

An Institute for Government report published last month said it has 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.

But it noted the campus is still in its infancy and its continued success will rely on retaining the qualities that have contributed to its success so far, as well as ensuring there is a continued senior civil service presence at the site.

More than 1,100 new government roles will be based at a brand new site especially for the civil service in the town by 2025 – 300 of which will be Treasury roles.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen added: "For too long, Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool had been neglected by Governments of all colours. The Darlington Economic Campus proved a marked shift from London, giving civil servants realistic, first-hand experience of life outside the Westminster bubble. The issues and opportunities in Darlington are not exclusive to that town - or our region as a whole - and closer ties with communities like ours will only strengthen Government's understanding of these areas.

"The Economic Campus has been fantastic for our region and the country, as evidenced in the recent report published by the Institute for Government. It has created hundreds of good-quality civil service jobs which are mainly being filled by local people - who are adding their diverse voices and expertise to the civil service. The report makes it clear many workers would not have been given access to such opportunity.

"This is only the beginning, with hundreds more jobs planned to come to the Campus, giving us a seat at the table like never before and helping to capitalise on other transformative projects we're driving across our whole area."

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A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “The Places for Growth programme is helping level up the country by moving over 12,000 roles out of Greater London in its first three years – with new locations in Darlington, Bristol and Glasgow.

“Extensive planning and analysis goes into decisions on new locations, including assessment of value for money, skills and local transport networks.

“New hubs are expected to deliver millions of pounds of economic benefits for local areas through increased footfall and spending from staff. Moving civil servants will always encounter opposition but we are determined to deliver.”