Birmingham 'set to host new audit watchdog'

The UK government is to move hundreds more civil service jobs from London after choosing Birmingham as home for the nation's new audit regulator, according to a report in the Financial Times.

As part of a continuing drive to relocate civil servants from London to the regions, an initial tranche of 200 staff will move to Birmingham when the new Auditing, Reporting and Governance Authority (Arga) comes into being in 2024.
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Move 'centrepiece' of wider reforms to corporate governance

Arga will be the successor organisation to the Financial Reporting Council (FRC), which currently has about 400 staff at its London HQ, all or most of whom are expected to move to Birmingham eventually.The relocations are part of the Government's 'levelling up' scheme, which aims to move 22,000 civil service posts from London to the regions by 2030. So far, just under a third of the moves have been achieved.Lord Martin Callanan, Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, is overseeing the Arga project, which is regarded as a centrepiece of wider reforms to the way the accountancy profession and UK corporate governance are overseen, says the Financial Times.

Search for Birmingham HQ underway

Baron Callanan has ordered the FRC to begin work immediately on finding new headquarters for Arga in Birmingham, where he is said to want as many of staff as possible – including the entire management team – to be based.He also wants as much future recruitment as possible to be from the West Midlands, leaving only a minimal Arga presence in London. One official described the move as a “brilliant opportunity” to boost economic growth beyond the 'London bubble'.The official added: “The minister’s decision gives the FRC the clarity. It needs to act quickly, secure suitable premises and start recruiting and preparing staff for the Arga base in Birmingham as soon as possible."

Wider civil service shift to regions

However, the Financial Times warned that, although ministers had approved the planned move, it could still be scuppered by resistance from within the FRC."Another person aware that Birmingham had been named as the location for the accounting regulator said ‘no plans have been finalised’ and further approvals were needed before a move could be signed off," reported the FT."Any move is likely to be conditional on legislation being passed to create Arga, which in turn may depend on the new Prime Minister's appetite for devoting parliamentary time to implementing reforms that were judged ‘boring’ by advisers to Boris Johnson, particularly in the run-up to an election."The newspaper added that the relocations represented an attempt to reverse a decade of centralisation under previous Conservative administrations, which have seen 58,000 regional civil service jobs cut and 15,000 jobs created in London between 2010-2021.The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy now has plans for a wider shift to the regions with 1,350 civil servants expected to leave London by 2025.

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