Spread London-based civil service jobs throughout UK, demands SNP

Mike Weir, who believes civil service jobs should be dispersed
Mike Weir, who believes civil service jobs should be dispersed
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The SNP is calling for more civil servants to be moved out of London in an effort to cut costs.

A senior nationalist MP says the coalition government should disperse civil service jobs across the whole of the UK and do away with plans for regional pay disparities.

That would allow different rates of pay for the likes of jobcentre staff doing the same work in the south-east of England as in Scotland.

This already happens in London and more than £116 million is spent each year by Whitehall on “weighting” and living allowances for staff in the capital.

The SNP’s business and enterprise spokesman, 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.

“Rather than taking more cash from the pockets of hard-pressed public servants, some of the £116m used to subsidise London living could be recouped by redistributing jobs where they are needed most,” Mr Weir said.

“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.”

However, the demand met with claims of hypocrisy from opposition parties which say it makes no sense when the SNP is campaigning for Scotland to leave the UK in a few years.

Labour insists the proposals undermine claims from the nationalists that Scots are on course to vote for independence in two years.

A spokesman for the party said: “For a party obsessed with separating Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom, clearly the SNP don’t have the confidence in their argument.

“Why would they be asking for the UK government to disperse jobs to Scotland when they plan to make us a foreign country in a couple years?

“While there is some merit to the idea of decentralising civil service jobs, it is hard to see past the SNP hypocrisy in this suggestion.”

Chancellor George Osborne set out plans to introduce “regional pay disparities” in public sector jobs in last month’s Budget.

The move would mean local factors, such as the cost of living and private sector pay rates, would be taken into account for public sector workers, making it more responsive to local needs.

Treasury research suggests the pay gap ranges from 18 per cent in Wales to 0.5 per cent in the south-east of England.

The plans would initially affect 160,000 civil servants working in Jobcentres, the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency, and border guards at ports and airports.

But Mr Weir insisted the move is “wrong-footed” and will “further entrench the imbalance in jobs and investment towards the south east”.

He added: “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.

“The extra costs incurred for London living are staggering – the Department for Work and Pensions alone picks up an additional bill of £45m, while the only relocation over the last year has been from Northamptonshire to London.

“And in defence we see almost £11m 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.”

Local pay rates affecting up to six million public sector workers could be rolled out from next year.

Union leaders have slammed the proposals, insisting that a move to regional pay will not just reduce the salaries of millions of public servants, but hit regional economies outside London and the south east when people have less to spend.