Author of report on regeneration says moving civil servants out of capital could reduce risk around Whitehall
Terrorists might feel less inclined to target central London if the government goes ahead with plans to move some civil servants out of the capital, according to the author of an official study published this week.

Sir Michael Lyons, professor of public policy at Birmingham University, who wrote the report on the benefits of moving civil servants into the provinces to boost regeneration projects, suggested that this could reduce the threat to government operations.

Lyons said that terrorists would have fewer targets in the capital if the government went ahead with a dispersion programme, and that this might dissuade them from launching an attack.

He said: "Decentralisation could help to make government more resilient, and less dependent on one quarter of a square mile around Westminster."

Lyons made his comments at the MIPIM property fair last Thursday, on the day when more than 200 people were killed in bomb attacks in Madrid.

Under proposals put forward by Lyons, departments such as the Inland Revenue and the Home Office could be pruned back, with many administrative functions farmed out to towns and cities in the provinces, leaving a cadre of senior staff in London.

Decentralisation could make the government more resilient

Sir Michael Lyons

Government departments have identified 20,000 jobs that could be moved out of London and the South-east. They have recommended that the relocation plans are put into action in the 2004 spending review.

The government envisages axing 7000 more posts because of efficiency savings. It believes more than £2bn could be saved over 15 years as a result of the review.

It is understood that Tony Blair could appoint a key minister to head the dispersal. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is working on how to co-ordinate the move.

Lyons is also chairman of the English Cities Fund, a joint venture between English Partnerships, Amec and Legal & General with initial funding of £100m, to be spent in five rundown areas. This money could be distributed in tandem with the dispersal programme to start town centre regeneration.