Bring government to the people

Friday, December 22, 2006

Letter to The Times - 3 Dec 06

History repeats itself. Sir Rod Eddington suggests pricing people off the roads, then pricing them off the railways too. So what’s left? Dr Richard Beeching proposed a similarly parochial plan in 1960, which suited his paymaster (Ernest Marples, then Transport Minister, had been a director in a road building firm).

A less short-sighted policy might be to ask why we travel, and why to the South East? Could it be that that is where the spend is, and if we want a bit of it we have to go and influence, face-to-face, the people who make decisions whether it is Ministers and Senior Civil Servants (spend around £400billion per year) or the head offices of major companies. Not surprisingly everyone builds their head office nearest to the people they most want to influence, resulting in this North-South divide.

So how to do it better?

How about we move Parliament, Ministers and Senior Civil Servants to the people? That way 1,500 people move around the country and the other 55million can stay put and wait for their month with easy access. It would work better than the various reviews which try to move civil service jobs out of London, it would give major employers a real reason to move themselves out, bringing with them millions, not tens of thousands, of jobs, together with support services, hospitality and entertainment, house building, and giving people access to countryside, public services that work, quality of life.

It would cost around £100million per year; money re-circulated into the economy in mainly jobs. The benefits, in reduced need for flood defences and infrastructure in an overcrowded Thames Gateway and Thames Valley, in London Weighting (£160million just for the 40,000 civil servants currently still in London), and in regional renewal would pay for this 200x over every year!


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