A future Labour government would order every Whitehall department to draw up plans to move jobs out of London and into regions including the West Midlands, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has revealed.
In a wide-ranging interview, Mr Balls also said:
- Labour would have to continue cutting spending until the economy recovered and there was no “pot of gold” for cash-strapped local councils
- Labour has to win seats in the West Midlands in order to win the next election
- He believes immigration would be a key issue in next year’s election campaign.
Mr Balls said the proportion of civil service jobs that were located in London had increases since 2010 – but a future Labour government would demand that posts were relocated to other parts of the country.
He said: “We will say that every government department, in the first months of the next Labour government, will have to draw up a plan for civil service and wider public sector job relocation outside London.
“I want there to be more civil service and public sector jobs in the West Midlands.
“I think the fact that this government is increasing the proportion in London is going in the wrong direction, is expensive and is unbalancing the economy.”
The Shadow Chancellor told Labour’s party conference this year that the next Government would face a budget deficit of £75 billion.
But it now looked as if the deficit might be even higher, he said.
And the next government would have no choice other than to cut spending – even though local councils are already warning they cannot cope with more cuts.
Mr Balls said: “I know from my own constituency that the cuts have been deep. The easy savings have already been made and people really care about children’s centres, child protection, adult social care, the state of he roads. This is a big deal
“But I can’t deliver the resources for local authorities simply by waving a magic wand. It’s got to be about getting the economy growing more strongly.
“And the fact that we’ve got the economy slowing down next year, that’s a problem for me.”
The West Midlands would be key to winning the next election, Mr Balls said.
“We have got 15 key seats [in the West Midlands]. It’s an absolutely vital region for Labour.
“If we want to get David Cameron out of Downing Street we’ve got to win these seats in the West Midlands.”
Mr Balls highlighted immigration as an issue voters were concerned about – and said Labour had to respond to that concern.
“There is no doubt that in the West Midlands the pace of immigration and its impact on people’s wages, terms and conditions has been a real issue. We are going to have to have tougher controls and fairer rules which are fairer to people here in Britain, to stop undercutting of wages but also to say that if you come and you haven’t got a job then you won’t get unemployment benefit.
“People know that skilled migration is really important. But it’s got to be properly controlled and it’s got to be done in a fair way.”