Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

What is the point of holding cabinet meetings outside of London?

The cabinet have decamped today to Bradford to hold the cabinet meeting. This is the sort of thing that started to happen under the previous government. I thought it was a gimmicky waste of time and money then and I think the same now. Indeed many Tory MPs used to think so too (as does Iain Dale today). Apparently once the cost of security etc. is added in, previous trips like this have cost up to £200,000 a time. This won't even factor in the loss of productivity in having ministers unneccessarily travelling for several hours (apparently most of them arrived by coach).

I suspect the counter arguments will be that they get the chance to see what is happening in other parts of the country but ministers already travel all over the place as part of their duties. Having them all descend on one particular place like this is surely not necessary for this purpose? Indeed this particular trip seems to be in response to a difficult question Cameron was asked during the election campaign in Bradford and to get out of it he promised to bring the cabinet up to the city. This is surely overkill.

I am sympathetic to the idea of moving government departments out of London and perhaps even parliament, e.g. to Birmingham or Manchester. Moves like this would help reduce the London-centric focus we so often see and could actually save money given how expensive London is. But the fact is our parliament is in London and sending the entire cabinet on awaydays like this seems pretty hard to justify, particularly in our current financial circumstances.

David Cameron should make this the last day trip like this for him and his colleagues.

1 comment:

Thomas Byrne said...

These cabinet visits go down a storm in the local and regional press and are seen as a genuine attempt to break out of Westminster and Whitehall and connect with the rest of Britain. For all of us who crave a more positive conversation between elected politicians and the public, this must be a good thing, although, like you I amsceptical of the costs involved.