Where should you work?

In the current debate about the return to the office I have only one firm conclusion. It is not the job of government to tell the private sector how to organise their workplaces or how to run their companies.

It is the job of government to lead the management of the public sector. Ministers appoint the most senior managers, like the bosses of Network Rail , the Environment Agency and all the other nationalised businesses and quangos. Ministers direct the work of the civil service. They do need to make decisions about how many staff need to attend an office, and where that office should be, on the advice of the senior managers.

It is clear Ministers and the heads of the civil service think the core civil service is needed in person in the central offices of the state. The task is now set for civil service managers to bring that about. It is also the case that where public service is falling behind in meeting demand for licences, permits, passports and the rest compared to pre pandemic levels there needs to be an urgent review of working practices to ensure good service levels.

It looks as if parts of the private sector have decided that the five days a week commuting model into a central City office is not a good one for some of their staff. In many cases staff can work from home given ubiquitous digital technology. Many staff are trusted to work from home, and can be monitored in detail by the use they make of their computer, on line conferences, email and phone. Sensible companies want enough good quality output more than they want someone to sit at a given desk for specified hours. Companies seem to be saying they want a new settlement where some people attend the office all the time and some part time. Some meetings will take place by on line call, and some in person around an office table.

For any given individual there is a reward if they have trusted status and permission to work from home some or all of the time. They save a lot of lost time and money on commuting. Quite often employees reward the company by working additional hours or hours not within their formal contract to get the work done well from a home setting. If the employer lets you supervise the plumber or pick up your child during the working day, why wouldn’t you take a call from a customer in the evening?

What has emerged from lockdown is just how much many commuters dislike the travelling part of their old lives. Poor train and bus services that let people down with cancellations and delays, and crowd people on uncomfortably is neither a good start nor a good end to the work day. The collapse in demand for public transport brought on by anti pandemic controls is being seen by many as a bridge to not having to travel daily even after the virus has subsided as a threat.

There remain many employees who do not have the option of homeworking. Most of the much damaged tourism, leisure and hospitality industry requires staff to assist the public at the place of service supply. Public sector offices helping the public may need the maintenance of physical offices with staff to carry out the work, as well as on line options for many to use.

I would be interested in your views on what the new settlement might look like. How much flexible and homeworking will there be in a year or so’s time, assuming the virus threat continues to retreat?

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  1. formula57
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 5:27 am | Permalink

    Now the appreciable benefits of flexible and homeworking are apparent and the potential risk of indolent staff is seen to be negligible or manageable, it is less than easy to see a retreat back to pre-Covid work practises.

    The sociological impact upon inducting those new to the world of work is yet to be seen but doubtless ways will be found to cope.

    • Sir Joe Soap
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 6:53 am | Permalink

      “The sociological impact upon inducting those new to the world of work is yet to be seen but doubtless ways will be found to cope.”

      Using the example of the sales rep, who would train in-house then be accompanied on the road before being let loose on his own, I guess this can work in many other areas with some adaptation.

      What becomes of the office and who pays the business rates will be interesting to see.

    • Peter
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 7:54 am | Permalink

      People who worked from home in the past often did so against a background of work being permanently shipped out to places like Noida and Chennai. So I am not sure home working does much for long term job security.

      The journey in need not be as bad as claimed. I always had a seat on the train and walked from Waterloo to The City via the back streets. There was a lot to observe and I knew exactly how long it would take from the station to the office.

      Home working was handy for covering various domestic issues, but I also liked going into the office and was glad there was a large head office building. Many of the people I worked with were also friends and a lot of my socialising was done in town. The suburbs are a bit sleepy in comparison.

    • Hope
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      Well said JR. Trouble is newspapers highlighting civil service advertising jobs to work from home!

      Council staff for years have been working/sciving from home. Chinese virus gives them an excuse to continue! Same for head teachers! Same for police! Your govt. needs to get a grip with the public sector.

      Let us face it gutless govt ministers do not even have the courage to defend Tony Abbot being appointed. They took the left woke sack Scruton position, condemn or ignore before knowing the true facts!

      • NigelE
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

        “It is clear Ministers and the heads of the civil service think the core civil service is needed in person in the central offices of the state.”

        Therefore, Ministers and/or heads of the Civil Service (why plural?) can give a reasonable instruction that staff present themselves at their normal office place of work. Should such a resonable instruction be ignored or argued with, then that is a disciplinary matter (at least in the private sector). If it were made clear when it is issued that the instruction is mandatory and that failure to comply will be regarded as a serious breach of the employer (The State) – employee (the Civil Servant) employment contract, then failing to comply can attract the ultimate sanction, dismissal. A simple meeting between line manager + HR and the employee + union rep can be conviened and the sanction applied. No verbal warnings, no written warning, just sanction (with of course, right to appeal, but if the framework of the instruction is constructed corrrectly, there will be no reasonable appeal to be made).

        This is how serious breaches of the emplyment contact are managed in the private sector.

        I doubt whether the public sector has the experience, knowledge or the willpower to take such action.

        Which is a shame becuase we do need to reduce the size of the public sector.

    • Harryagain
      Posted September 11, 2020 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      Has the thought never crossed your mind that if someone can work from home for £30,000/year, someone else in India can do the same job for £5,000?

      Get back to your office! Quick!

  2. Stephen Priest
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 5:31 am | Permalink

    The term “Covid Safe” work environment worries a lot. It gives the impression that the virus is so deadly that you only have to touch something or talk to someone who’s not behind a plastic screen and you’re dead.

    I have seen videos of mask factories in Indian slums on Youtube. And yet mask these are part of the “Covid Safe” mantra.

    What worries me is that so many MPs seem to never question anything outside what they are told regarding Covid 19.

    You would think with Covid 19 they would be able to do a huge amount of research outside the Government and its scientists’ mantras and contradictions.

    The never seem to work out that you never normally test for an illness when somebody is not ill.

    When you see TV images of testing it worries me. If anything looks like it would pass on infections it would be the testing:

    Up close and personal with a swab – next please!!
    Up close and personal with a swab – next please!!
    Up close and personal with a swab – next please!!
    Up close and personal with a swab – next please!!

    • Stephen Priest
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 6:24 am | Permalink

      Nobody should be force to take any form of medical treatment against their will.

      Enforced medication is the work of dictators

      • Original Chris
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

        Agreed, SP.

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 7:44 am | Permalink

      Agreed. Our Parliamentarians are failing the country as hasd this government and continues to do, unchecked. The ‘cure’ they prescribed for dealing with CV19 has been, and will continue to be, much worse than the disease but politicians don’t seem to care. Lives have been lost or blighted, our personal freedoms removed, jobs lost, education severely disrupted and the economy trashed. No one in Parliament or local authorities seems to care as they continue with their CV19 obsession at the expense of all else. We are living in George Orwell’s 1984.

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 8:38 am | Permalink

      I don’t think that your opening paragraph has it quite right.

      The prime reason for which we try not to become infected is so that we ourselves do not become vectors and pass on the virus to other people who may very well die. Yes, self-protection is the next one, but to interpret these socially responsible measures as fearmongering is mistaken on this basis.

      • NickC
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 10:20 am | Permalink

        Martin, Nonsense. “You” and “someone” applies to each and every person equally. Clearly self protection is the prime reason, not least because it prevents the self from becoming a vector.

        On top of that covid19 has effectively died out – the death rate is lower than for summer influenza. And we’re not partly locking down the economy for flu! Covid’s gone – you’ll have to find a new stick to beat the government and anyone to the right of Jeremy.

        • Martin in Cardiff
          Posted September 6, 2020 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

          I hope so.

          We’ll see, won’t we, as with other things?

          • Lynn Atkinson
            Posted September 6, 2020 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

            Do you ever see Martin?

    • Caterpillar
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      Stephen Priest,

      I think you have your first paragraph is 100% correct. Such Govt actions to destroy the socioeconomic structure of the country, are the means of transmission ( a vector) in which appalling policy is destroying millions of future quality life years.

  3. Bob Dixon
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    Let’s start with the House of Commons.The Government needs to held to account and this is not happening.All M.P’ s must be back at Westminster.
    We need to be out of the clutches of Brussels on 1st January 2021.We need the NHS to be back dealing with more important treatments than Covid 19.We need the emergency measure rescinded.
    The Government must get back to running the country.

    • Andy
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 7:26 am | Permalink

      You left the EU last January.

      And in the 8 months since your ‘freedom’ the British government – making its own decision – has presided over 60,000+ excess deaths (41,000 directly from Covid), a scandal in our care homes, the worst recession in 300 years, repeated fiascos in our schools including the scandalous treatment of A level students, an absolute mess over quarantine, an explosion in the number of dinghy arrivals, the failure of trade talks with the US and the failing trade talks with the EU.

      At some point you should perhaps just stop whining about Brussels and accept that this government is just particularly incompetent.

      • Edward2
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

        No we haven’t left the EU.
        We are still paying billions in membership fees.
        Their laws still have jurisdiction over us.
        January 1st 2021 is Independence Day.

        • Andy
          Posted September 6, 2020 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

          You left the EU on 31 January 2020. Nigel Farage had a naff party attended mostly by old people and Mark Francois failed to ring Big Ben. And that has been the highlight of your achievements so far.

          • Edward2
            Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

            You must know you are wrong.
            We are in transition towards leaving on 31st December 2020.
            That is why there is a negotiation process.

      • zorro
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

        Wrong again – ‘with’ not ‘of’…. only just over 2,000 have COVID only on their death certificate.


      • NickC
        Posted September 7, 2020 at 11:43 am | Permalink

        Andy, I would believe you if you can show that we now control our fishing resources not the EU (ie no CFP), and that we no longer have to obey the CAP and CCP policies, for example. If you can’t (and you can’t) you should shut up to prevent yourself looking really ignorant.

    • Mike Stallard
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 7:38 am | Permalink

      And Nicola Sturgeon?

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 7:47 am | Permalink

      Agreed. Not much sign of that though as they plough on with their CV19 obsession and media fear creating propaganda. MPs seem to do nothing.

      • NickC
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 10:26 am | Permalink

        Brian, Well, my (Tory) MP isn’t doing nothing, he’s flannelling for England. When I point out to him that covid19 now causes fewer deaths than influenza, he witters on about social distancing, masks, “small measures”, etc, quite oblivious to the social and economic damage the government continues to cause for no sound medical reasons.

        • zorro
          Posted September 6, 2020 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

          Is he a muzzle zealot?


          • NickC
            Posted September 7, 2020 at 11:44 am | Permalink


      • Original Chris
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

        MPs have apparently not yet learnt how to behave and work as MPs of an independent country. They are so used to being force fed by Brussels, and many apparently would like to continue that.

        • Lynn Atkinson
          Posted September 6, 2020 at 3:45 pm | Permalink


        • margaret howard
          Posted September 7, 2020 at 7:07 am | Permalink


          Force fed by Brussels? These figures hardly support your point.

          At the last election:

          “Of the 650 seats, 81 changed hands between political parties. There were an additional 75 seats where the sitting MP stood down and was replaced by another MP from the same party. There were 495 MPs who were re-elected, 140 new MPs and 15 MPs who had held a seat before but were not MPs immediately before the election.”


    • A.Sedgwick
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 8:41 am | Permalink

      HoC would be an ideal test bed for track and trace, world beating app, regular testing – something for the statisticians to get their teeth into.

      Maybe the first matter they could discuss en masse is selective, anti -democratic, outwith law £10,000 fines.

    • Caterpillar
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      Bob Dixon,

      Correct HoC needs to be holding Govt to account, but I think most MPs are too political/fearful/unethical/pathetic to question the Govt around CV19 policy.

      The NHS is rapidly heading to a boo them on Thursdays status, they need to deliver big with respect to other treatments . People saved the NHS and tragically some died doing this, people should not continue to dying to save the NHS.

      Emergency measure does need to be rescinded, but I appreciate that people cannot stand up against this for fear of an essentially uncontestable £10,000 fine. The fact that most MPs let the destruction of democracy go by without even a whimper shows what most of them are.

      Government needs to get (back?) to enabling the country not running it down. The PM clearly has no intention of doing this, if he had he would have sacked the destructive Hancock and Sunnak by now.

      • Lynn Atkinson
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 3:46 pm | Permalink


      • zorro
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

        +2 – wasters, every last one of them, too cowardly to stand up to the tyranny of government by diktat!


    • glen cullen
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      Fully agree – get all MPs back to parliament

      Reply We are all back unless someone asks to be allowed to work remotely for health reasons

      • Fred H
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps you could advise us on what urgent Bills have been discussed, read, and passed to the Lords?
        The media don’t seem interested in telling readers what is going on!

        • zorro
          Posted September 6, 2020 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

          He won’t because it is a ‘dead parrot’ Parliament!


          • Fred H
            Posted September 7, 2020 at 8:20 am | Permalink

            or a ‘tub of lard’ (Have I got news for you).

  4. Mark B
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 5:47 am | Permalink

    Good morning.

    It is not the job of government to tell the private sector how to organise their workplaces or how to run their companies.

    And neither is it correct that government should interfere in wages via the Minimum Wage or set gender and quotas. All of which this Conservative (sic) Government has done !

    The day government can do its basic duties properly, like stopping illegals entering my country, will be the day it can have an opinion on how the rest of the population can go about there lives ! Oh wait, silly me, it already does !

    • Lifelogic
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 6:35 am | Permalink

      Indeed if someone wants to work for less than the minimum wage why ban them? Perhaps they enjoy picking apples, working at a local cafe or training a local sports team. Perhaps they prefer this to commuting and earning a bit more (before commuting costs that is) somewhere further from home! It is a law against workers, prohibiting them from working or learning how to work.

      They are, after all, allowed to do voluntary work. Just get the state out of the damn way.

      Posted September 6, 2020 at 7:22 am | Permalink

      If you’re white, male and heterosexual you are now the enemy of the new politics that now dominates the west, Extremist feminism mixed with a massive dollop of racism and gender indoctrination all designed to weaken and remove me, my father and my friends and no doubt millions of other British citizens like John Redwood MP

      Yes, John, one day you’ll be replaced because you’re the wrong gender or have the wrong ethnicity

      You do get the feeling the Tories are dragged along with this extremist political movement

      When was the last time you heard the expression ‘freedom of speech’ from the lips of a Tory MP?

      This party’s betrayal is simply off the scale and every Tory MP knows it and yet it remains silent for an easy political life

      • Everhopeful
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

        I never understand why the great and good have no fear of all this.
        Do they believe in the ultimate security of gated communities?
        Certainly the police will never help them.

      • Narrow Shoulders
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

        Wrong sex, gender does not exist outside recognition of which chromosomes you posses

        • Lynn Atkinson
          Posted September 6, 2020 at 3:49 pm | Permalink


      • Lifelogic
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

        “one day you’ll be replaced because you’re the wrong gender or have the wrong ethnicity”

        Indeed this is already happening all over the place, The BBC for example hardly ever consult a non female engineer, physicist, civil engineer etc. on screen nowadays. This despite the fact that a rather large majority of these professions are far more male than female. Better still if they can find one with some other ticks in the identity politics boxes (preferable very visible ones).

      • zorro
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

        Indeed, you would think that some of them have the stomach for the fight, or are they all going to meekly die in their beds of old age wishing that they had done something useful for once….


      • margaret howard
        Posted September 7, 2020 at 7:15 am | Permalink


        “If you’re white, male and heterosexual you are now the enemy of the new politics that now dominates the west…”

        After centuries of the suppression of women being virtual chattels with no property rights, representation in parliament and being less than second class citizens, it was only to be expected that the worm would turn eventually.

        The same applies to non white people who were regularly enslaved and traded like cattle.

        Not forgetting homosexuals who were treated like criminals and persecuted down the ages.

        Learn to live with it and hope that the new world order will be kinder to you than you were to them.

        • NickC
          Posted September 7, 2020 at 11:58 am | Permalink

          So, Margaret, you do think two wrongs make a right? Because that’s what you’re saying. Actually your potted histories are wrong in every respect. You appear to be looking back through the lens of cultural marxism. Yet life was never political for the vast majority of men and women in the UK – government hardly impinged upon people’s lives at all.

        • Edward2
          Posted September 7, 2020 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

          Life centuries ago wasn’t too great for white people either.
          Splitting society into competing groups and then educating them to hate one another is a sad current trend.
          We need peace and love not hate and revolution.

    • a-tracy
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      Agree, The government tells private business how it should run their companies all the time now. It virtually writes the contract of employment, sets pay rates, it expects business to run the tax system free of charge, pay monthly on time or be fined, report monthly digitally or face fines, pay for the software and training required to do this or outsource at cost of the business. It literally tells you now what you are allowed to talk about together or risk public condemnation, lost contracts, being pilloried, vicarious liability claims (even if the event happens out of the workplace or at a works organised party). The ONLY reason people start their own business nowadays and take on staff is because they don’t realise the responsibilities and regulations before they hire that first person and boy then they’d better learn fast, risk assessments, a health and safety booklet to fill in 500 pages to read and check off, do a first aid course and on. I keep asking where does the responsibility end for employers that keep their employees working at home? When an employee of yours enters someone else’s premises their liability insurance picks up the responsibility so where does working from home fit into this?

      Our government never gets held responsible for failed services, it doesn’t pay the bills for loss of productivity due to key link roads just being shut for 3 months with no-one working on them for 18 hours per day, thousands of people sent 10 minutes diversions for no good reason then causing the delay to be 20 minutes each way. Roads shut for five hours with no one even attempting to divert traffic arriving at the back of the hold-up, slip roads aren’t closed, signs up telling people to get off nothing. Our productivity problems are government decision creations.

      Why would you pay staff for hours of work they don’t do in the office? If we only need someone for 4.5 hours then that is all they are employed to do. If work changes you retrain and redeploy you don’t just leave someone with nothing to do? I don’t understand this concept that people were sat twiddling their thumbs for hours in the office – really? It seems there is a lot of waste to me if by more productive at home means they can do the same work in two less hours per day or set up their own mini business in works time from home on the side. I know a home-working woman that never works Friday and when she was called in to a meeting on a Friday she was moaning her head off how unreasonable it was to be asked to work on a day she was contracted to work and called in sick.

      • Narrow Shoulders
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

        We had a similar Friday experience, one of our staff was permitted (not agreed but permitted) to work at home on Fridays on the understanding that she would not be looking after her children and would be working.

        Whenever she was asked to attend a meeting or to interview prospective candidates on a Friday she said she couldn’t come in, almost certainly as she did not have childcare on that day. It hadn’t even been contractually agreed.

        She was one of the first to the wall when we restructured.

    • Ian Wragg
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      Well said. It’s tiine the government started sealing our borders and putting Britain first.
      How many fascist ER are going to be find £10,000.

      • Timaction
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

        The double standards of law enforcement is clear to all as the police and public services have been infested by leftists and this Government has had 10 years to put it right but has not. Either totally incompetent or in agreement with those selection processes to deliver left wing bias at the highest levels.

      • Lynn Atkinson
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 3:51 pm | Permalink


      • margaret howard
        Posted September 7, 2020 at 7:26 am | Permalink

        Ian Wragg

        As long as you don’t mind the rest of the world doing the same to us by sealing their borders and treating us as second class supplicants.

        Is this tit for tat world really the one you want your children to live in?

        • NickC
          Posted September 7, 2020 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

          Yes, Margaret, it is the job of other countries to look after their own citizens, not ours. And vice versa, of course.

  5. Lifelogic
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    You make exactly the right points. People and businesses should decide for themselves how best to work. In the state of the state sector we probably only need about 25% of current staffing levels anyway. Much of what the state do is not needed or is actively damaging. What is needed is generally done very inefficiently too. Any state sector jobs that can be done from home we should consider doing overseas for perhaps 10% of the cost. Thus releasing the UK person to get a private sector job. The tax the ex-civil servant then pays would me more than enough to pay the 10% needed for his replacement. Another win/win.

    The main thing we need is real freedom. choice and a level playing field in health care, education, broadcasting, transport, energy. a much smaller state sector and cheap on demand energy.

    Extinction Rebellion facing ‘organised crime’ curbs I read. Good, about time too. They should also consider Black Lives Matter and several other organisations and charities. Especially in the deluded climate alarm area.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 6:12 am | Permalink

      Tobias Ellwood thinks they had a noble cause – surely this is nonsense they are just deluded dopes with another idiotic religion but the government, academia and the World is unfortunately stuffed with deluded dopes on this issue.

      “Shame on Extinction Rebellion. You have lost sight of your noble cause and how to build consensus.” He said.

      I certainly do not want to see a consensus for a damaging, expensive and rather pointless war on plant and tree food and nor do most sensible scientists.

      • Sea Warrior
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 7:15 am | Permalink

        Ellwood often disappoints.

      • Lester the Cynic
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 8:36 am | Permalink

        Extinction Rebellion never was a Noble Cause, they have always been a thinly disguised terrorist group dedicated to destroying our way of life, BLM have the same aims, a Marxist organisation, when will people see them for what they are?

        • Lifelogic
          Posted September 6, 2020 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

          When indeed?

    • Chris Dark
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 7:36 am | Permalink

      Thanks. Your proposal would put my son out of his job, which he has battled for years to acquire, despite being highly qualified, thanks to a nit-picky fussy private sector that judges people based on whether they speak the right buzz-phrases during interview, and whether they’re a “good fit”. There is some kind of stereotyped view of what a civil servant is, which seems to be a dull person sat at a desk pushing a pen and doing a menial job. There are government workers, for example, who are highly skilled and qualified scientists, data analysts, programmers. Why should we hive their work off abroad? Don’t you think we’ve hived enough work off to foreigners in the past, leaving our own people without? This has been highly notable in the tech industries, engineering, electronics…hey let’s send the work abroad and stuff the British worker.
      I’ve seen too many people lose their jobs as a result of greedy private sectors trying to get jobs done on the cheap, often resulting in the work coming back to British IT experts and engineers to fix the mess created.
      Government departments are not slow to interview people who have good skill-sets and offer them positions; ex-private sector folk are now taking up employment in government, having been laid off by the coronavirus scam. The private sector is not God, any more than the public one. But destroying one in favour of the other is vindictive.

      • Lynn Atkinson
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

        One pays for the other. If you destroy the private sector you kill both!

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 7:56 am | Permalink

      Yes, that’s genius level thinking. Outsource public sector jobs just like the private sector has. I so long to discuss my pension or tax or parking ticket or passport renewal with someone in a call centre whose first language is not English. Meanwhile, many private sector companies have brought call centres home as they lost customers. When I look for a new service provider, my first question is ‘Where are your call centres?’ If the answer is not ‘The UK’, I take my business elsewhere. Mind you, if the public sector outsourced and you couldn’t understand people dealing with your call, who would you complain to? Your MP? Ha ha. And it’s not as though you can take your business elsewhere! And, believe it or not, public sector workers do use transport, buy food at work, use local shops at work, have a drink in the local pub after work etc. They do contribute to the economy. And, of course, there are millions of private sector jobs waiting for them. Maybe they could all deliver food on bikes or operate bike rickshaws.

      As I said, genius level thinking.

    • Peter
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      Much state sector work is now done by the private sector – but at a greater cost.

      There is a cartel of firms that make good money this way. Francis Maude’s idea of preferred suppliers was a godsend for the successful bidders. Failure gets overlooked. The gravy train rolls on. I don’t see any benefit for the taxpayer or voter.

      Look at what happened to the sub post masters when the computing systems failed. They were not believed when they said they were not responsible. Instead, they were taken to court and wrongfully punished. The truth had to be dragged out of the obstructive firms responsible and the CEO (who carried on afterwards with no consequences to her career).

      It is a similar story in the NHS and elsewhere.

  6. Adam
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    ….. where doing so if most efficient.

  7. Sea Warrior
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 6:04 am | Permalink

    Employers (whether state or private) are kidding themselves if they think that productivity of the WFH lot is going to match that previously obtained. There’s an obvious challenge ahead for those generating GDP statistics.
    Next week, retired me will take the train into London to do something cultured and spend some money. We all need to make a similar commitment – or see millions of our fellow citizens made redundant.

    • Sir Joe Soap
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 6:46 am | Permalink

      Up to a point. London is so yesterday. All business is local.

    • Andy
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 7:44 am | Permalink

      What evidence do you have that the ‘WFH lot’ are less productive? Because your analysis would appear to be flawed.

      Actual businesses which employ actual people who are WFH have discovered that, actually, it works for them and their companies. So much so that after only doing it for a handful of month many of our biggest employers are saying they’ll embrace WFH permanently. So what do you know that they don’t? Or, perhaps, does retired you not really understand the modern workplace?

      • Everhopeful
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

        Beavering away there to destroy capitalism as per Andy?
        Hope you like what you get!

      • Narrow Shoulders
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

        Tell companies saying they will embrace working from home are the same companies that pander to the “talent”.

        These are the type of organisations that were bailed out by the taxpayer because they were bust but still had to pay large bonuses to the “talent” so they would stay in post.

        Grow a pair I say, who pays the piper calls the tune.

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      I have seen many authoritative reports that have found that the average person working in an office is productive for 60% of the time. From my own experience I know this figure is about right. I know of one public sector organisation that long before Covid had up to 50% of staff working from home. Their IT systems enable detailed reporting on what they get up to – and the people working from home are consistently more productive. This allowed the organisation to seriously downsize offices and hotdesking was introduced at least 10 years ago. Working from home works.

      • bigneil(newercomp)
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:02 am | Permalink

        No commute time.
        No commute cost.
        Less fuel used due to less traffic.
        Wear what you want – not what is dictated to you or expected of you.
        No expensive cardboard cup of coffee to carry into the office.
        etc etc.

      • a-tracy
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:05 am | Permalink

        How does being productive at home at 60% compare with these same people’s productivity when they were based in the supervised office?

        • Narrow Shoulders
          Posted September 6, 2020 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

          He was saying that he believes home workers being productive 60% of the time compares the same as office workers who are only occasionally productive.

          What Mike did not factor in is the management time required to manage remotely and the unnecessary remote keeping in touch sessions that the office water cooler facilitates. So even if the workers are similarly productive (and not distracted by the television or washing or kids) their managers are less productive or have to work longer hours.

      • glen cullen
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 10:18 am | Permalink

        I’ve not seen any study that indicates working from home (UK private sector) works……I’ve heard lots of reports that the public sector staff like it – but its all anecdotal

    • NickC
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      Sea Warrior, I think that illustrates why national GDP is a misleading measure of either wealth or economic competence. We could all get in our cars and rush up and down the motorways, spending money on petrol and food, to increase UK GDP but would it make us better off? Of course not.

      • Sea Warrior
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

        Good point. I would also like to see the government focus rather more on GDP/capita and the deficit than on the GDP figures.

      • Narrow Shoulders
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

        It would increase the money multiplier in the same way that coffee shops do Nick.

        Not disagreeing that GDP is a poor measure

  8. Richard1
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    It should absolutely be up to individual Employers not the govt. It is increasingly clear now that the Wuhan virus is a threat to older people, people with other serious health conditions and fat people. The rest of the population, especially children and young people are fine. So let the vulnerable shield as necessary and let everyone else get back to work. New data show that lock-downs have done little if anything to stop the spread and lifting lock-downs hasn’t led to a surge. Also, though there is an uptick in some countries such as Spain, the hospitalisation and death rate is now minimal.

    The reality is the panicked global lock-down is very likely to come to be seen to be a massive policy error. It’s embarrassing to admit an error but better than continuing the damage.

    • a-tracy
      Posted September 7, 2020 at 9:22 am | Permalink

      Richard1 I would appreciate the government telling us from the information gathered by the NHS; what health conditions people need to take care with precisely not roughly they now have the facts from January to June 2020. e.g.
      1. Is it type 2 diabetes? or just Type 2 with other factors
      2. ie what level on the obesity index? A 5ft 10in man is considered overweight if over 12 and a half stone, obese if over 15 stone and very obese if over 20 stone – what weight range specifically died or had a hospital visit from covid?
      3. Is Blood pressure a factor? Even if you take medication for it?
      4. What % of the people that were hospitalised or died had a flu jab in the previous six months? Did the flu jab interact with covid?

  9. Lifelogic
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    Grant Shapps in the Telegraph today talking his usual rubbish of zero emission electric cars. Is he deliberately lying or does he really believe that electric cars are zero emission? They are emissions elsewhere you silly man. Emissions at the power station and in the mining and manufacturing of them and their expensive and rapidly deteriorating batteries.

    Perhaps with his minister’s expenses and salary he can perhaps afford his £45K Tesla that will depreciation at about £8K PA and perhaps he had plenty of space to park and charge it. Most people cannot. They need to get to work etc and can perhaps only spare £2k PA or so for their car. They also have to pay tax on the costs of their commute (unlike the minister I suspect).

    • Hope
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      Some logic for wind machines, that need steel to be maufactured, machines transported and eventually taken down and scrapped. Madness, pure madness. I think Shapps is intelligent so I would say he was lying because he knows what he says is not true. He could not be that stupid to write zero emission?

      Thunbergs yacht is built from carbon fibre, same logic applies. How does she think it was manufactured!

      • Lifelogic
        Posted September 7, 2020 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

        Does ne or she think or do they just have gut feelings?

  10. Alan Jutson
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    No doubt change is on the way with regards to the way some people work.

    No doubt that companies will also work through new systems that can be implemented which does not require as many staff to complete paperwork/computer time as before.

    The regional waiting allowance may also eventually go, why pay higher wages to people who will not now be travelling at huge cost into a city office.

    Yes more will eventually work from home, but not exclusively, new people will need to be trained and mentored, existing staff will still need to be kept in the loop of supporting information and general discussion., and many will find they are just not suited to work from home.

    Certainly change is on the way, but perhaps not the way many may think it will happen.

    Many should be careful what they wish for.

    • Narrow Shoulders
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      A measured post with good insight Alan

    • glen cullen
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

      While your comments are valid for the finanical sector, people that work in production, manufacturing and services can’t work from home

      • Alan Jutson
        Posted September 7, 2020 at 7:21 am | Permalink

        Perfectly understand that as I have said in many previous posts.

        Indeed research has shown that only a minority of workers are actually suited to work from home, because most prefer the face – face interaction with other people.

        Aware that those who actually work for themselves and who run their own companies may have already made their choice.

  11. Lynn Atkinson
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    If all those who do not need to be present in person skipped the commute, it would make the commute for those who do need to be present in person, a lot more comfortable. The state transport system needs to be squeezed until the pips squeak, however, because the cost of commuting is simply outrageous and must be halved in spite of serving 50% of previous commuter numbers.
    British people have suffered a salami sliced reduction in the quality of their lives over decades. They were forced to run faster to pay more tax. Suddenly this came into focus when everything stopped overnight, they are right to demand a better quality of life, better housing for their life’s work, more time with their children and parents.
    From the ashes of this managemental disaster, if we achieve 3 things, it will have been worth the 3 billion squandered.
    1. The British people recover much of their quality of life lost to Government Spending.
    2. The Experts in Green Crap are seen for what they are and ignored, laughed at even, or like ‘Extinction Rebellion’ jailed and deported.
    3. The State sector must be halved financially and in every other way.

  12. Sir Joe Soap
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    Everyone’s self employed now!

    Some of us for years have been trading the opportunity to watch sports day with working into the night and weekends. It’s what work should be – interesting and do it to optimise your own life, at the same time making sure your customers are kept happy.

    I guess the penny has only just dropped with many folk, and some of those will be daft enough to be taking advantage and be replaced by folk from Bangalore. Tough.

    This dovetails with your new cars piece yesterday-life is worth more than a shiny new car on the drive if in its place you’ve bought time to do the non-driving things you want to do.

  13. Lifelogic
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    Daniel Hannan today:-

    We have put the economy in a coma. Raising taxes would be a second trauma.

    Indeed but I would add that not cutting and simplifying them would be very bad too.

    He adds:- The country as a whole has just seen its production decline by around a fifth. Almost all of us are going to be poorer in consequence. We cannot, in the circumstances, squeeze businesses even harder while enlarging the public sector. Deep down, voters know it.

    Yes but does Sunak and the Treasury who cannot even cancel HS2 it seems? Oh and the renewable expensive energy lunacy is another tax (in effect). It needs culling now.

    • Everhopeful
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      They CAN’T ..it is what they have signed up to with EU.
      How about if the idea is for fast EU-wide transportation for, just say, an EU army…in case of “trouble”?
      Certainly the catastrophic economies of HS2 will cripple us financially even further …“levelling” us down purposely to the status of the poorest countries in the EU.
      “Sooner or later socialists run out of other people’s money” said Mrs T.
      What she didn’t say was that the spending is always part of the agenda to destroy capitalism.
      Flatten it all…and then “build back better“. Oh, that’s a fave of Boris n’est-ce pas?

      • Lynn Atkinson
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

        Spot on.

      • a-tracy
        Posted September 7, 2020 at 9:27 am | Permalink

        I thought the main point about HS2 was that it opened up the UK railway system to EU trains as they can’t run on current lines? Isn’t it just another way to cut the UK nationalised sector like the EU insisted on with the Post Office. Now the poor post office has to deliver to all the remote locations and compete on the profitable sectors with a host of other European competitors who cherry pick and don’t have to do the costly bit as they sub it to the PO.

  14. Pat
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    Good morning Sir John,

    Many areas of the public sector should be privatised and this is the time to do it.

    I’m pleased to see that the Government has announced it’s intention to enact legislation to curtail ERs illegal activity, and hope that this is more than window dressing.

    What action is being taken to discipline senior police officers who publicly state an intention to facilitate protest when that protest is an illegal blockage of public roads?

  15. Sir Joe Soap
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    O/T interesting to see confirmation from David Frost that May made things more difficult for him by her building up their hope that we would be rolled over by the EU. She was clearly actively working against what we voted for. Well done Boris and Frost on this front, at least!

  16. Peter Parsons
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    People are employed to deliver results and outcomes. That is equally true in both the private and public sectors. So long as those are being delivered, what does it matter as to where they are being delivered from if it is the sort of work that can be done from anywhere?

    There are requirements around technology that are needed to make this possible, but these are not that difficult to put in place, and can give people back time and money (which can then be spent elsewhere in the economy), a better quality of home life and greater flexibility.

    Presenteeism is outdated, last century thinking. What does it say about government ministers that they are expressing this sort of outdated, last century thinking.

    • a-tracy
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

      Peter, some of the work currently being done at home is no longer secure, zoom calls with none employees sitting in the customer unaware on the calls, multi-households not all security cleared, one girl even tweeted what her father was doing when he making a secure delivery.

      I agree presenteeism is outdated, however some jobs need doing in a secure environment with only people that are equally checked and cleared. I would not be happy if i discovered a skype call with say a GP was being overheard by that GPs teenage children or partner when I thought it was secure. I wouldn’t be happy to know my bank manager was talking to me on an unsecure line or the accountants.

      • Peter Parsons
        Posted September 7, 2020 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

        Most of those situations are easily solved with an appropriate environment (closing doors, using headphones). The technology is already available so long as people are appropriately professional.

        There will always be some jobs that require people to travel to a specific location e.g. many in manufacturing, hospital staff etc., but if the rest of us can commute less it could take pressure off some of the current bottlenecks in the transport system and reduce the need for some road building, for example.

  17. Bryan Harris
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    High handed government never solved anything – It needs to step back a pace and allow people and companies to think for themselves and decide what is best for them.
    Still there is too much hype on the virus, with facts about CV-19 selected by the media to cause panic.

    Having done the daily commute to work for many years, I can see why employees are reluctant to take it up again – It is a regular nightmare. There are always jobs that require you yo be there, but that is becoming less and less. Technology is totally adequate for a great many people to work from home, and companies will benefit – No need to rent expensive large complexes in high rent areas — much smaller building will now work out very well.

    Railways will need to adjust, but let’s see how things pan out – it could happen that employers find good reasons for their people to be together.

    Less stringent government control is required for those industries that meet and greet the public …and again companies and those served should decide what is appropriate protection — not the interfering government.

    Companies that rely on their salesmen touring the country to tout for business has long been an area ripe for change using remote conferencing. Perhaps companies buying services and machinery will make better decisions if they are not deluged with regular visitors coming around to show how great, how innovative, their company is — Companies that buy will now have to rely more on their own critical evaluation.

  18. Sharon Jagger
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    “It is not the job of government to tell the private sector how to organise their workplaces or how to run their companies.”

    I totally agree with this statement. This is one reason why a great many businesses are not rushing to return their staff to the office. The government ‘guidelines ‘ are so prohibitive that the 2m limit means only about a quarter of staff will fit in to the office space, and the impression that everything is contaminated is not at all helpful!

    The work ethic of the Civil Service seems so wrong. There seems no determination to get the job done efficiently in some areas (most), but so much preoccupation goes into how the job is done with diversity as an obsession. I read that there is a campaign to give all MPs diversity training. What an absolute waste of time. They should be getting on with their jobs and leave the MPs to get on with theirs.

    So whether public sector workers work from home or office really is dependant on their efficiency and dedication to getting the job done. Public sector seem often to be very inflexible in their thinking and attitude.

    Private sector will likely be a mixture of home and office working. IF they’re allowed to get on with it without government interference.

  19. Mike Stallard
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    Here are some of the people I know:
    One is a middle manager in one of the world’s major oil companies. He is back in the office. But he only lives a few miles from his work.
    One works from home – another middle manager in a world wide company – and comes downstairs for meals and tea breaks. 24/7.
    Another goes in for a couple of days a week otherwise works from home.
    A school secretary and a teacher both have to go to work all the time as usual.
    So does a man who works at a local supermarket.
    A vet is starting her own business but goes into work part time.
    Another senior financial executive attends meetings and otherwise works from home.

    Things are changing and none of these people works for the government.
    Libraries? Full of staff. But closed to the public (how silly is that!)
    Churches: hermetically closed still with tightly restricted and a very unpleasant atmosphere of suspicion.

    • Fred H
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      Which libraries? In Wokingham area only the main town centre one and Lower Earley are open – but very restricted in what services are available.
      Thousands of borrowed books resting in homes, probably untouched for weeks or even months. The 30 staff were reported as ‘deployed to other tasks’.
      A prelude to closing the libraries?
      Well Sir John are you going to protest at this nonsense.?

  20. turboterrier
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    The saying that big fleas have little fleas is very appropriate when one considers all the massive areas of office blocks support a big part of the local population be it wine bars, cafes and pubs where the office inmates can escape for an hour meet and great friends from other departments and mentally recharge their batteries.

  21. Nigel
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    More people WFH, less people commuting and using public transport. Just the time to get on with a hugely expensive and out of control new railway line. Where will work place technology be by the time it is finished?
    A huge risky investment in 20th century technology all ready for the mid 21st century.

    • Anonymous
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      Quite obviously by 2040 there will be ultra realistic virtual reality without the need for travel.

      What is needed is top notch broadband.

  22. Stuart
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Mr Redwood, As an (un)-civil servant myself, I’m not sure anyone in Government is looking at the paradigm shift that the virus has bought about.

    Previously I would not have been eligible for home working.

    However we have adapted, the work we do is being done.

    That then raises the question, of how many people does the Civil Service need in an office?

    There are potentially large savings to be made to the taxpayer, by reducing the floor space needed across Whitehall and elsewhere.

    I’m not missing the daily commute, on an overcrowded, unsafe, and expensive Train.

    The virus has also killed the case for HS2.

    Less commuters, more capacity, more capacity, less trains needed, less trains needed, no need for HS2.

    Another saving.

    I note some are worried about small businesses in city centres.

    Well let’s re-purpose that expensive and empty office space, into much needed accommodation.

    Which will bring people back to city centres.

    Instead of getting back to the old normal, let’s embrace the changes bought about by the virus, where we can.

    • Everhopeful
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      No let’s not!

    • glen cullen
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

      Don’t worry ‘parkinsons law’ will kick in

    • Stred
      Posted September 7, 2020 at 8:29 am | Permalink

      That’s probably why they had a BBC publicity boost for the start of work on HS2 last week. They realised it would have even fewer passengers and had to counter the opposition before it started.

  23. Everhopeful
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Just wait.
    The reality of home working will dawn soon enough.
    Not everyone lives in large, expansive houses in quiet neighbourhoods.
    I once knew someone who worked from home ( which was unusual then). He actually did live in a beautiful, big house with a work-dedicated extension.
    Then the folk at the bottom of his long and gorgeous garden got a dog that barked incessantly.
    Eventually fisticuffs ensued!!
    New houses, small houses, squashed together houses, houses on busy roads ( if cars persist).
    How are people going to get the job done??

    • Original Richard
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

      “The reality of home working will dawn soon enough.
      Not everyone lives in large, expansive houses in quiet neighbourhoods.”

      This reminded me of being told on a trip to China that the reason why the factory workers were sleeping under their work tables in summer was not because their bosses were forcing them to do so to increase production but because the factories were air-conditioned and their homes were not!

  24. Peter
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    ‘Next week, retired me will take the train into London to do something cultured and spend some money. We all need to make a similar commitment – or see millions of our fellow citizens made redundant.’

    I have been doing this for a while. Most of the shops on Kingsway are still closed, as is a Sainsbury on High Holborn and many of the pubs. Paternoster Square seemed particularly quiet though we had a very long and enjoyable lunch.

    The recently opened British Museum has a booking system and is ground floor exhibits only. I remember when I used to go in at lunchtimes and tick off ‘A history of the world in 100 objects’ a few at a time.

    • Fred H
      Posted September 7, 2020 at 7:39 am | Permalink

      An occasional lunch and visit to a museum in London will keep the jobs…..yeah right!

  25. SM
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Work from home – ok if you are, say, well-versed in your job already, but how do the newer and younger employees learn what to do and how to do it, and how to adjust to a particular organisation’s modus operandi if they are stuck alone at their kitchen table?

    • Alan Jutson
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 12:52 pm | Permalink


    • Stuart
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      Ever heard of Screen sharing?

      Technology has moved on.

  26. Steven
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Government has caused an economic and social disaster for a virus that was no real threat at all as numerous governments have admitted in their own figures- particularly the US CDC who say that 94% of deaths were due to other causes and 90% of positive test results were wrong. This clear and obvious failure means that government is not fit to tell people anything and should return to it’s proper role of running basic services (probably it will fail there too) and leave productive people to sort the mess out.

    • Lynn Atkinson
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 4:04 pm | Permalink


    • Everhopeful
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      The measures were probably disproportionate and possibly unlawful.
      They have caused much suffering.

  27. Everhopeful
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    It is quite obvious what the govt. wanted all along ( in accord with global diktat)…no trains, no cars, no planes, everything done on the internet. No gas, no solid fuel, no Christian worship, no borders. No happiness, no normality etc etc etc.
    So why the Hell, since they are now officially a totalitarian regime, could they not just announce their impositions, without all the nonsensical drama and save us all a lot of time, energy and masks?
    Oh..maybe they were frit? Surely not!

    And what on Earth is all this nonsense re the govt being bothered about freedom of the press??? Freedom of their panic-button mouthpiece more like!
    What will they do regarding left wing thugs…sweet FA that’s what!

  28. Dave Andrews
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Work from home adds extra demands on management.
    If someone has a job to do, and they take a long time over it, is that because the job has encountered unforeseen complications, or is it because the work time has been diluted by domestic tasks?
    How can you take on new staff to work from home? You need to coach and observe their work at least in the initial stages. Working from home stifles job progression – recently redundant people won’t get a new position if they want to continue to work from home.
    Working from home works only with people you already know and can trust to maintain diligence, and even then they lose coherence with the team over time.
    That’s in the private sector. In the state sector, the unions will deny an employee is performing poorly, the answer for them is more employees.

  29. John E
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Focus on the result, not the means.
    If a job is done on a computer on the internet I don’t care where the computer is as long as the job gets done safely with respect for data confidentiality.

    Tell managers that they have until the end of the year to restore normal service and recover backlogs.

    Ban the phrase “We’re not doing that due to Covid”.

  30. bigneil(newercomp)
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    “It is not the job of government to tell the private sector how to organise their workplaces or how to run their companies. ” – – It does appear however to be the govt’s job to flood the country with foreigners and teat them better than their own people.

    • bigneil(newercomp)
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 8:54 am | Permalink


    • Lynn Atkinson
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

      They are afraid of the foreigners…

      • glen cullen
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

        …and the media

  31. a-tracy
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    If you have a person who can do 8 hours work from an office in 4 hours at home then you have too many staff.

    • Alan Jutson
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 12:53 pm | Permalink


      “….too many staff”

      As many are probably about to find out !

  32. Anonymous
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Peter Hitchens today.

    The right to mass protest has been taken away. Whether they apply it to XR and BLM is yet to be seen.

    One suspects that 5b of the Coronavirus Act was made law at the first opportunity that was not XR or BLM and may be used against them (it will be telling if it isn’t.)

    It seems they were too scared to deal with BLM directly so have taken away all of our rights with a rubber stamp borrowed from a Communist state.

    • Lynn Atkinson
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 4:06 pm | Permalink


  33. Bryan Harris
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    When is there going to be a far reaching Parliamentary examination of everything associated with CV-19?

    Until we are totally able to trust what is happening, and what has been done in the name of the virus, this thing will never be concluded.

    The time is overdue for an honest evaluation.
    Or am I too hopeful that Parliament can do that job?

  34. Martin
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    I note you had your usual dig at public transport “Poor train and bus services”.

    I suspect many of your constituents will not miss the jolly old M4 and junction 10 at peak times either!

    • JohnE
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      They will especially not miss it when it is turned into a dangerous “smart” motorway. I’ll be using the A4 a lot more.

  35. Christine
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    I worry about the social aspect of WFH. The work place is where many people meet their future partners and friends. It is the place where we create ideas and gain experience.

    • glen cullen
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

      Very true – its not in our nature to sit in caves all day

    • Stred
      Posted September 7, 2020 at 8:17 am | Permalink

      If you hadn’t noticed, everyone meets their future partners online too. They talk on zoom and meet physically afterwards and can then spend more time doing more enjoyable things than commuting to the dump and back, too tired or late to fall asleep in front of the tele.

  36. Andy
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    For many private companies the shift is permanent. They now see the advantages and we will soon see many – if not most – adopt a hybrid working system where employees work some of the time from home and some from the office. This potentially has huge savings on office space – and benefits for individuals who no longer have the expense and inconvenience of a commute.

    Clearly there will be major impacts on the business model of train companies and things like city centre sandwich chains. But it should provide a significant boost to many local high streets as people will buy their lunches and coffees there instead.

    Government should lead this charge but instead we find ministers moaning about civil servants. Sure, there have been some problems but also there have been remarkable successes. The Treasury has been an outstanding success. Well done to Rishi and his team of Remainers. It is amazing how departments dismissed as being run by Remainer officials have proven so competent. Who knew?

    Things like passports and driving licences have been a problem but we need to know why before we assume it is just because civil servants are at home. Maybe it is to do with delays at the printers or perhaps getting documents to the right place is the issue. These are all possible to overcome.

    Just think this is the opportunity to do something the Tories claim they want to do. Get even civil servants out of London. Sell off the fancy Whitehall offices and embrace the future.

    Sadly we do not have a government competent enough to know it is a Sunday, let alone one able to think big thoughts.

    • Lynn Atkinson
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      😂😂let’s see how ‘competent’ the Remainer Treasury are at paying their bills! They frittered away £1billion paying £10 of lunch bills! They certainly have been very efficient at bankrupting the British Government for the foreseeable. The British people must learn to stand aside and let the Govt sort it’s finances out -as the Italians do!

    • a-tracy
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

      Rishi, Andy, really? He’s done the easy bit giving money away, we’ll see how competent you think he is when he has to start encouraging people to make some more money for him to spend.

  37. mickc
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    So…HS2 has even less justification, as if we didn’t already know that.

  38. BOF
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Is there any point in discussing the finer points of WfH or going to the office while the the Govt. insists on continuing the ruinous policy of ‘fighting Covid’?

    It is not however for government to decide. It is for employers to decide what is most efficient for their purpose. What govt. can control is how cs work and the most useful and cost effective thing to do is halve the numbers, abolish quangos wholesale and stop giving taxpayers money to charities.

    Nothing can get back to anywhere near normal until the Covid legislation has been repealed entirely.

    Where are the back benchers?

    • glen cullen
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

      remember the covid-19 legistation has a 3 weekly review – has anybody read a single review

  39. Anonymous
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Until the bill for CV19 arrives working from home appears good for many people.

    Permanent mass unemployment is soon to arrive and those with jobs are going to have to pay for it, including those WFH.

    Then there are going to be the WFH job cuts because fewer people are able to buy things from them. Then comes the outsourcing because, hey, if it can be done from home it can be done from anywhere.

    We have just flicked the switch to “off” on vast swathes of our economy.

    Our banking district is a ghost town and the global transport hub that are our airports are in terminal decline – our hopes hinged on both of these things. Even the Tower of London is under economic threat and Beefeaters are being laid off. Yes, I realise that the City is operating in the information cloud at the moment but the argument that ‘Frankfurt is boring’ no longer applies in keeping services based in the UK.

    We are at real risk of London becoming Detroit on Thames, or at least very boring indeed – there is a clamour to escape it now.

    Where should people work ?

    I don’t know the answer to that but we shouldn’t be asking the question because it gives the impression that this was through choice.

    It wasn’t.

    WFM was brought by a crisis (much of it caused by bad leadership) which is yet to manifest itself in its full pain – and virtually everyone is going to hurt. People have forgotten that we are in a crisis.

    The latest thing you have lost is the right to protest. You won’t feel that pain for a while but it’s coming, be sure of it.

    It was taken away with the same flick of that switch.

  40. NickC
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    JR, It’s not so much the commute as the overcrowding and the delays, as far as I’m concerned. At 6:30am my drive took about 20 minutes – ideal for changing my focus from family to work – but at 8:00am the same drive could take 90 minutes.

    This country is overcrowded – we need to encourage most of the 10m to 15m foreigners here to go home. Commutes would then be easy and houses plentiful.

  41. Norman
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Travelling officers in the Civil Service are largely used to flexible home working, especially Defra in its service to the farming and rural community. However, team building and training is vital, if the service is not to become fragmented, and ‘everyone doing what is right in their own eyes’. If offices have meanwhile been prematurely axed, it will be too late to recoup the former operational effectiveness.
    One can see how the response to this virus is something altogether new. The alarmist narrative is in my view far more dangerous than the virus itself. Its global scale has led governments in some less developed countries inflicting poverty and near famine on their poor. And we’ve yet to see the true, longer-term cost here in the West.
    More cases simply means more people at least partially immune. Meanwhile the extra vulnerable need to get early treatment, or shield till the shadow is over-past. Front-line workers need to avoid getting over-tired and unduly stressed – a possible reason (plus high exposure) why numbers of medics have succumbed. This is not the plague, nor is it Ebola! Historically, any normal common-sense response to such a virus would not have taken this totalitarian course. The general level of global hysteria over all sorts of issues suggests a deeper and more destructive malaise is at work.

  42. glen cullen
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Lets be honest there are only 3 types of employment that allows you to work from home; the media & journalists, civil servants & bureaucrats and politicians & government funded programmes

    And it’s the same 3 groups that get airtime to debate working from home

    Everyone else doesn’t get a choice i.e those involved in production, manufacture and services.

    • Mark B
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      Good point.

    • JohnE
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      Nonsense. I worked for a very successful business that grew rapidly without any head office back at the start of the century. The founders never understood why they should pay for an expensive office building.

  43. Caterpillar
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Lockdown has clearly shown that suburban sprawl coupled with unpleasant commuting conditions is not a favoured future. This is consistent with the view that to return to growth of GDP per capita planning needs to be focussed towards interconnected vertical cities – the commute is overcome, services are delivered more efficiently, opportunity entrepreneurship (scale) and innovation (mixing) are increased, social mobility can be supported etc.

    W.r.t.the current Civil Service performance and behaviour;

    in roles of clearly measurable output (passports etc) that are falling behind prior productivity then the only defence for now working from home is if the individual or a cohabitor is in a high risk group (but even this is not obvious considering viral loads)… though to be honest there will be fewer people needing passports as the Govt has removed the freedom to travel from the population.

    Outer and inner London pay supplements should be immediately removed for anyone working from home, they no longer need to live in or travel to London (and the Chancellor has of course ‘enabled’ the housing market)

  44. Rhoddas
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Having worked in telecoms since the last century, WFH working from home for last 5 years prior to retirement, my experience is remote working is very effective IF the team is brought together every month or two, to handle any thorny issues & tricky nuances face to face, do team building and hold one-to-one meetings too.

    C19 has accelerated this transformation. 5G will make it even easier. Work from home, beach, anywhere in the world. Silicon valley does it a lot and people like it for the reasons stated in your article.

    Goverment, Councils, Quangos / public sector can thus significantly REDUCE their cost of operation, by repurposing empty offices into residential uses. It’s why the private sector is embracing it massively, look at Capita’s decision to release 100 offices…

    No need for horror tax rises, nor continued justification for HS2 imho.

  45. Alan Jutson
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Given the huge number of similar comments on yesterdays topic.

    I wonder if you should perhaps guide our present Transport Minister to read them, given his comments in the Sunday Telegraph this morning, with his praising of electric cars as the future.

    Me thinks he has a rather blinkered view of matters, and needs a good dose of reality in order to wise himself up.

    • turboterrier
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      Alan Jutson

      Blinkered View?

      He has got his eyes tightly shut and wearing ear plugs. Totally in a world of one.

      • Fred H
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

        same goes for most of the Cabinet, I’d guess.

      • Stred
        Posted September 7, 2020 at 8:00 am | Permalink

        Good news last week was that Brighton’s looney left council has had to close one of Shapp’s little used cycle lanes taking half of the main coast road because the buses were unable to arrive on time. The jams along the main roads to the outskirts are still temporary but causing permanent lines of traffic waiting to get through the traffic lights, but they councillors seem to like the delays. How much has Grant cost the taxpayer on his green opportunism. He seems to be as deluded as the local MPs and to have arrived in the Conservative party by accident.

    • glen cullen
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

      The Rt Hon Grant Shapps Secretary of State for Transport

      We just don’t believe him

  46. JoolsB
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Down here at my b & b in St. Ives, I have had quite a few public sector workers staying insisting they can work from anywhere before heading off to the beach for the day. One lady, a civil servant who has just left is on a three week holiday and informed me she is having another couple of weeks off next month so may be back. Before lockdown my nephew who works in admin for the NHS on a six figure salary and his wife who works in the same department had a baby so they decided they would now work from home a few days a week to suit themselves. They always seem to be on holiday.

    When is any Government going to have the courage to cull the public sector of all these cushy jobs? And the quangos. And where better to start than culling Parliament. Do we really need 650 MPs, especially 117 part time ones from Scotland, Wales & NI when most of their case loads are done for them by MSPS/AMs in their own parliaments?

    • Everhopeful
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      Maybe this whole lark is all about culling ALL jobs?

    • Sea Warrior
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      Your post chimes with reporting in the Sunday Times, last week, about the Education sector. For every hero/heroine there was another teacher milking the system for all it was worth. No wonder there’s such a disparity in educational outcomes.

  47. Fred H
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    BBC website: snippets from newspapers.
    “PM wants EU to get real” is the Sunday Express’s front-page headline, as the UK and European Union gear up for the latest round of Brexit trade talks in London on Tuesday.
    In the latest salvo from No 10, Boris Johnson is set to “starve the bloc” of access to cheap money on the financial markets in the event of no deal, the paper says. Its political editor, David Maddox, says the “arrogant” EU needs to alter its negotiating strategy if it wants an agreement because ministers now seem “rightly relaxed about no deal”, with UK trade agreements “beckoning around the world”.
    The EU, meanwhile, wants to “keep the status quo – to have their fishcake and eat it”, is the message from the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator, Lord Frost, in the Mail on Sunday.
    The paper says his remarks show that he will not be “browbeaten” and that the UK will not just be “chivvied back into line” in trade talks by his EU counterpart Michel Barnier.

    Why not just give up and walk away – – a year’s waste of time.
    EU is quite prepared to shoot itself in the foot in order to continue the message of ‘you can’t leave’ to the 27.

    • Peter
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      Maybe it is all just so much theatre as events draw to a close ?

      Watch out for a Deus Ex Machina. Though quite what that would be is anybody’s guess.

    • Peter Parsons
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      If the UK government imposes restrictions on access to London markets, the business will simply happen elsewhere. It is companies that provide those services, not the UK government, and they will simply relocate where they service the EU27 from, whether that be Frankfurt, Paris or New York, but whichever way, it will be to London’s detriment.

      Threatening to shoot yourself in the foot is not a smart negotiating tactic.

      • Fred H
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

        I’d shoot myself in the foot but keep the rest of my leg!

  48. William Long
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    You are entirely right that it is no business of the Government’s how private businesses conduct their affairs: common sense and the market will dictate that they do it in the most efficient way. Home working in the pandemic for most ‘pen and ink’ jobs has exploded the myth that everything needs to be done in the office. Most people in my experience are extremely conscientious in how they do their work; they will value the extra hours they save from not having to commute so often and deliver to their employers accordingly. The employers will have to adjust their management techniques to deal with those who fall short.
    There are though some functions where personal interface is essential: Parliament and local Councils are two of these. The Government say that members should come back ‘As an example to the rest of the workforce’. The Government as so often is wrong. The reason why MPs should return is that their institution has been shown only to work properly when as many of them as possible are in the Chamber.
    I have seen no reduction in service levels from professional firms I deal with even though they always warn that there may be due to staff working remotely; the only difficulties are with state and local council departments which often still have not got their acts together.
    Of course the implications of this change for town and city centres are considerable, and the Government should show that its priority is to address these for the long term rather than continuing with its current policy which seems to be to put the genie back in the bottle and revert to the status quo. This is bound to fail. I do not think many people will have continued to prefer a sled once the wheel became available.
    There are huge implications for town planning and development and the Government should concentrate on these rather than nonsenses like cycle lanes.

  49. The Prangwizard
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    The argument that productive efficiency is this or that percentage of the normal workplace rate is rather nonsensical as it is presuming wrongly that 100% occurs there.

    There has always been plenty of faking of activity in the ‘office’ for time filling – plenty of contrived interruptions to help with that or just being plain slow. It’s just that it hasn’t been easy to leave the desk.

    Now I dare say a task can be done at home quickly and to be away from the ‘desk’ using some other fakery for that away time. No-one is really looking.

  50. Everhopeful
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    I too would just LOVE to know! ( Well possibly not if it involves “useless eaters”).
    But I heard that many ( most) MPs have not one single scooby as to what is really going on.
    They just toe the party line!

  51. Andy
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Mr Frost – who successfully negotiated the handing over of Northern Ireland to the EU last October – says he will not blink and that he is not scared to walk away. Nobody believes him – but even if it is true – we all know that negotiation by tantrum is not a policy and that the British government will be forced to capitulate eventually.

    One key issue emerging is cabotage – something which the Brexiteers really have not thought about. Cabotage is where hauliers have the right to take goods into other countries. And it turns out that lorry drivers have had that automatic right taken away. Driving a lorry is work. And the Conservatives removed the automatic right of lorry drivers to work in the EU. Oops.

    Now, some will be able to get visas for individual countries. But visa numbers are limited. And if you need to drive to Italy, for example, you will need separate visa for France, Belgium, Germany, Austria and Italy. Awkward. Plus, of course your UK driving licence will not be valid, nor will your vehicle’s safety certificates. Still, as a lorry driver, you will get plenty of time in the new Brexit lorry parks to think about how pointlessly difficult Brexit has made your life. Chances are, as a lorry driver, you also voted for it. Awkward.

    So what are you doing to help hauliers who risk being victims of your Brexit Mr Redwood? They are likely to be very disappointed.

    • Alan Jutson
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      An International driving licence was around before we ever joined the EU.

      I would suggest the Eu risks a similar ban on their drivers in the Uk if they persist in being unreasonable.

      What goes around comes around and both sides will see common sense eventually prevail, but only after we have properly left.

      Co operation agreements can easily be set up.

      • Know-Dice
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

        Agreed, and the 85% of exports from the ROI that transit into and across the UK by road…

        That will be interesting

    • Edward2
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      Wait awhile Andy.
      Do you think member nations will accept discrimination and disruption to free trade if imposed by the EU elite?
      An agreement will be reached.
      Particularly if the UK suggests imposing a similar regime on EU vehicles wishing to travel in the UK.

      • graham1946
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

        Two thirds of loads carried to and from the EU are by non British vehicles. And as usual, Andy has no idea what cabotage is – it is not what he says – he has heard the word and looked it up in a dictionary, but he has the wrong idea about it. If cabotage is not allowed, all the EU trucks will be returning empty and I doubt their hauliers would go for that.

        • Edward2
          Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

          I totally agree.
          I knew what Andy was claiming was wrong because of what I did in business for decades.

    • beresford
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      Gonna be a real problem for the Republic of Ireland then as traffic between them and the EU has to move in AND out of Britain.

      • glen cullen
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

        They can go direct but it will cost more

        • Know-Dice
          Posted September 7, 2020 at 7:02 am | Permalink

          And take longer. Also a large proportion of those ROI exports are for consumption in the UK

    • Sir Joe Soap
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      You really think EU customs officers will be seen strutting up and down the Holyhead to Belfast ferry trying to inspect intra-UK goods? Border Farce are clearly useless at stopping Dinghies, let alone contraband which isn’t really contraband (and this might be part of Cummings’ Machiavellian plan).

      Northern Ireland will remain part of the UK. Apart from goods which could actively contaminate the I of I e.g. livestock and some food items, transport of goods will take place as usual.

    • Original Richard
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:43 pm | Permalink


      I am hoping that the promised Ireland/EU direct link promised by the EU is established so that it is no longer necessary for Irish lorries to use the M25 and other UK motorways (completely free of any charges) to travel across the UK to the Channel ports thus reducing congestion, pollution and wear and tear on our roads for no benefit to us.

  52. Ed M
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Dear Sir John,

    Instead of focusing on HS2 which i think it a waste of money big time, why not spend a small fraction of that money in developing Cambridge as UK second city?

    I might be completely wrong, only being creative here. But Cambridge has so much going for it. In particular:

    1) Brilliant Science and Technology for helping to develop this part of The UK as UK’s Silicon Valley
    2) Lovely old city. This is important for attracting wealthy / sophisticated companies.
    3) There are so many smart people in Cambridge, that they would ensure the place was properly developed whilst not ruining the charm of old part.

    If people want high speed rail, then if Cambridge is developed and becomes UK’s second city in 20 years time, with a much bigger population than now, then sure, consider High Speed Rail from London to UK’s new Second City.

    In fact, London and Cambridge would really compliment each other. And Cambridge would be a real destination that people in business and general would get excited about visiting.

    I know we have to develop other parts of the UK, in particular the North, but let’s please start with the most obvious and easiest places to start.

    • Ed M
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      Cambridge as UK Second City and a real destination for people to reach, would be great for Brand Britain. And make sure you have a beautiful station in London (doesn’t have to be big) and in Cambridge with beautiful iconic fast trains. And then this would help The Cambridge area become UK’s new proper Silicon Valley. And easy for people in The City of London to get to for business meetings etc, tying UK’s Tech Industry with The City.

      I might be wrong. This is just creative thinking here.

    • Caterpillar
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

      It is not clear that further Golden Triangle support is truly levelling up, nonetheless it would be interesting to see whether politicians could be convinced to support and encourage vertical building in Cambridge to attract and accommodate somewhere between 3 million and 10 million over the next decades (current population is about 0.1 million I think i.e. about one third of annual legal immigration).

      • Ed M
        Posted September 6, 2020 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

        People don’t mind development so much as long as it is done well / with taste. I would seriously collaborate with people such as Prince Charles, to a degree, to ensure it includes some element of classical design and charm, not just modern (both), even a lovely old style square (like in Prague or somewhere – but not so big) for the new development. Why not? Don’t forget how important the destination is in attracting people and it must include beautiful buildings and layout and a ‘cool’ vibe (there is lots of economic research on this – these just aren’t subjective opinions). If people are contemplating 100 billion on HS2 then that money would be much better spent on spending a fraction of that on developing Cambridge and Oxford as the second and third cities of the UK over next decades.

        Sorry, but Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds are just not destinations that can compete with Cambridge (in regards to the potential it has) and Oxford (in regards to the potential it has). Yes, we need to develop the north, but developing Cambridge and Oxford easily seems like the easiest and cheapest and best choice overall to focus on first.

        Reply The government is working on a golden triangle development plan for London/Oxford/Cambridge, with better transport links and more housing

        • Caterpillar
          Posted September 6, 2020 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

          I do not disagree in anyway that Cambridge can be tastefully developed (I certainly wouldn’t want punts stopped by rubbish in the way that narrow boats are in Birmingham), but all I suggest is if this is possible do it for millions of people corresponding to the population increase the UK is and will experience, let alone the millions of others in the UK who need progress. (Just the number of additional asylum seekers in the UK each year is about 1/3 of Cambridge’s current population). If the Govt decided to build another multimillion scale city, I would not disagree that this is a sensible route, I am pro city. (There might be some resource issues in continuing this in just SE but they are probably not insurmountable). I obviously agree that public spaces such as squares are a good idea (depending what councils do with them), and such use of land is enabled by vertical build. I am happy to turn Cambridge into the scale of Prague, though this is only about a factor of 10 increase in population, so the UK would need a few others of such cities. Several such new cities would indeed help the U.K., though they are still a little below the size that would be more likely to produce service scale economies (if vertical) and broader entrepreneurship and innovation drive.

          In terms of the Loxbridge connectivity to which Sir John has alluded, many, many diaries ago, I did mention that Loxbridge could be further leveraged if Cambridge to Canley (Warwick Uni) and Birmingham connectivity was also improved. The improved links of London with the Midlands and the Manchester/Liverpool university cities and the developments of the golden triangle do seem to miss out on improving the W-E (Birmingham-Cambridge) route – the current snake of the Leicester, Peterborough route or the East West Rail Main line, both just don’t seem quite right (though it is a tough route).

          Connected, at scale cities, drive and distribute innovation and GDP per capita. Loxbridge already functions (and has for centuries), and as Sir John indicates has ongoing development. Rolling outwards and northwards (at appropriate scale) has huge potential. I generally don’t like learning from China, but China first developed the east and coast and then developed westwards from there.

          The U.K. has some dots to join, dots to grow and needs a few more dots.

        • agricola
          Posted September 7, 2020 at 5:41 am | Permalink

          There are numerous small towns in the triangle Oxford, Cambridge, London that could be expanded before engulfing either Oxford or Cambridge in high rise buildings, but do it with good taste.

          • Ed M
            Posted September 7, 2020 at 8:15 am | Permalink

            Oxford is beautiful. But I when I walked around it and into the suburbs, I was really surprised to find some quite grim parts.

            Old, beautiful Oxford must be preserved but the outer parts could easily be improved by beautiful architecture inspired by the old as well as modern architecture which can also look good.

            Taste as you say is key.

          • Ed M
            Posted September 7, 2020 at 8:17 am | Permalink

            Oxford, in those days, was still a city of aquatint. In her spacious and quiet streets men walked and spoke as they had done in Newman’s day; her autumnal mists, her grey springtime, and the rare glory of her summer days – such as that day – when the chestnut was in flower and the bells rang out high and clear over her gables and cupolas, exhaled the soft airs of centuries of youth. It was this cloistral hush which gave our laughter its resonance, and carried it still, joyously, over the intervening clamour.”
            ― Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

        • Fred H
          Posted September 7, 2020 at 7:34 am | Permalink

          There is certainly rather a lot of housing being built around Oxfordshire, upsetting the locals, adding to stress with construction vehicles, muddy roads – mostly unsold.

  53. Everhopeful
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Anyway the deal is being sealed!
    10% reduction of all rail services.
    Couldn’t get to the office if you wanted.
    And certainly will not be able to follow job to some far flung destination when it is outsourced!

    • glen cullen
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

      The rail service might be reduced but whats left will be faster with HS2 ???

  54. Ginty
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Wait ’til furlough ends and the bills come in and we’ll see if WFH brings happiness.

    The government initiated a general strike, in effect and the Left are taking full advantage of it. They are trying to destroy capitalism and are doing a good job so far.

  55. Iain Gill
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Re ” It is not the job of government to tell the private sector how to organise their workplaces or how to run their companies” but it does just that. With IR35 it is telling people that they cannot claim business expenses for working away from home, work travel, hotels etc. It is trying to tell the specialists of the country that they should all work at or very close to home.

    • Roy Grainger
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

      That’s not what IR35 is doing – it’s telling people pretending to be contractors that they can’t avoid National Insurance payments any more.

      • Iain Gill
        Posted September 7, 2020 at 8:35 am | Permalink

        the vast majority of the freelance flexible workforce are genuine. they are used for peaks of work that nobody would ever hire permanent staff for, or specialist stuff that one company cannot justify paying for the expertise long term. they are by their very nature expected to visit different sites, and work in different parts of the country, so not allowing them expenses tax free (like their competitors the big consultancies can still get) is the most stupid ill informed policy I have ever seen. this policy has a lot of unintended consequences that the political bubble are going to get a big shock about when they come home to roost.

        to be actively anti the freelance sector is a massive mistake as its one part of the economy that hits far above its weight in wealth creation.

  56. Alan Joyce
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Dear Mr. Redwood,

    I know you have dealt with the EU future relationship on numerous occasions but in advance of what look like crucial talks this coming week, I want to comment on what Dominic Raab has said on TV today.

    Mr. Raab said the negotiations had “boiled down to two outstanding bones of contention”, with Brussels refusing to budge on state aid and fisheries.

    The Foreign Secretary said “I think this week is an important moment for the EU to really effectively recognise that those two point of principles are not something we can just haggle away.”

    What happened to UK concerns on the Level-Playing Field and Governance / ECJ? Has the Prime Minister and Mr. Frost given way on these two? Mr. Raab’s comments would indicate so.

    • Sir Joe Soap
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 4:57 pm | Permalink


  57. Sea Warrior
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    I wonder what will be the impact of increased WFH on divorce rates?

    • glen cullen
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

      Also style, hygiene, sartorial elegance – everyone is wearing sweat pants

  58. Gantley
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    There will be plenty of jobs when the recruitment drive for additional Customs and shipping clerks finally gets going. Also I believe three hundred million new customs forms are in the pipeline and are going to have to be printed and that’s only for the UK side- again more jobs for some- the EU for their part will have to make ready their own forms- so it should be good fun all round filling out all this stuff on a daily basis with all of the detail- could even be better than doing the crosswords- anyway with the 20 mile queues and waiting times in the huge lorry parking lots there should be plenty of time for everyone.. sigh!

    • agricola
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      Who needs printed forms, we are in a computer age.

    • Sir Joe Soap
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      All because the EU refuse to do a similar trade deal than with Canada etc. Have you thought why that might be? That perhaps their intention has always been to grind the UK into the ground, in or out of the EU? Just look at the facts and figures, as 17.4 million of us did. Just listen to the EU people faced with May’s capitulation, jubilant when they thought they had us in an arm lock.
      NO, NO, NO.

    • beresford
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

      Makes you wonder how all these countries like the USA who sell more to the EU than us can possibly do business, doesn’t it?

  59. agricola
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    The home office balance should be a matter of need, consent, and agreement.No government direction required. The same principal could apply to the public sector, but I suspect they do not have the flexibility of thought to achieve it. There will have to be an acceptance that support industries could be rendered not viable. Only they know. Transport will need to shrink and season ticketing will need to change to journey counting rather than the present calender counting. For those who can achieve the right balance a much improved lifestyle lies around the corner.

  60. BeebTax
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    The government should not discourage home working. We would not have to invest so much in roads and railways, buses and tubes and trams etc if the daily commute was a thing of the past for most office-based jobs.

    But there are other reasons: remember the talk of measuring “happiness” as well as GDP?

    That measure would increase. I’ not met anyone who wouldn’t like to work at least part time from home.

  61. beresford
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    Apparently MPs are going to be made to take ‘unconscious bias’ courses hosted by a purple puppet, in which they will be taught not to use offensive words like ‘lady’ or ‘asylum seeker’. If Parliament is sovereign, how can MPs be made to undergo woke brainwashing? Will you be taking the course, JR?

    • Barbara
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

      Wasting £800,000 of taxpayers’ money in the process

    • zorro
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

      JR is playing the purple puppet, he is so ‘woke’ that he never sleeps 🙂


  62. glen cullen
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    Watching the news today one would think we’re back to the dark ages of armageddon & pestilence with reported higher then ever infection rates

    In other news the UK daily death rate is 2…….yes only 2

    • zorro
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

      2 out 1500 deaths each day. I need to know Glen, have we flattened the curve yet?

      JR, perhaps you can tell us, has your sombrero been flattened?


      • glen cullen
        Posted September 7, 2020 at 8:55 am | Permalink

        correct – the curve has been completely flat for 3 months

    • Fred H
      Posted September 7, 2020 at 7:30 am | Permalink

      I wonder what the daily death rate is for falling over and hurting the head? Similarly in falling down stairs? Building collapses? Bicycle hits pedestrian? Dog attack on human?

      • Zorro
        Posted September 7, 2020 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

        Control the Bicycle – Control the Stairs – Control the Dog – Stay Alert…
        Anyway, what about the rate of stabbings and fatalities. We all need to have stab vests to mitigate the risk. Does the government not care?


  63. M Brandreth- Jones
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    Brexit and the virus I believe will do the opposite to isolate us . We will venture either physically or cyberly into companionship with our nearest European neighbours .We are European and will stay this way , yet we can motivate and change from the side lines . I have always believed that we don’t need to be in the centre of Europe to influence. There are many great things which bring us together . GB doesn’t have to own any more land; we have all we need We will be wanted by airlines, by technology , we will share and a greater flexibility of working will remain.
    Germany, France, Spain and Italy have become intertwined with us due to the internet. This is not going to stop. Our various cultures where abominations have occurred , will not stop the great musicians connecting emotionally and this is where great nations such as Germany have made a lasting impact .Listen to Bach , Wagner , Beethoven and forget the ill used power of Hitler , yet we know that the vehicle to spread hatred was emotion. It is up to us to respect communication and quieten the fury on the net and we will grow from home and abroad

    • Roy Grainger
      Posted September 6, 2020 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

      Not sure Wagner is going to let us forget Hitler.

      • margaret howard
        Posted September 7, 2020 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

        How’s that?

        Wagner died 6 years before Hitler was born.

  64. XYXY
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s a complete unknown at present. The resistance in my company always cam from junior managers who liked to see people at the coalface – they seemed incapable of managing output rather than attendance.

    Also, their approach is often one of setting blanket rules rather than managing the problems. “No phone calls on the stairs” was one such rule (which I rescinded) – what they needed to do was to identify the individuals who are spending too much time on the phone/stairs and have a word with them.

    Since we moved to WFH as the norm, people have been happier and productivity has increased. There are one or two exceptions, but they were spoken to and changed their ways.

    This can only be good for the environment as well. I’m not talking about the silly climate change nonsense but emissions such as NOX and SO2.

    I genuinely hope, for society’s sake, that this becomes the new normal. However, I do worry about those junior managers and their need to feel power over their minions…

  65. Roy Grainger
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    GPs need to get back to work in their surgeries and make themselves accessible. Give them a yard and they’ll take a mile, as Blair found when he allowed them the option of not covering weekends.

  66. Sea Warrior
    Posted September 6, 2020 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    One of the accidental benefits from increased WFH – and I deplore the impact it’s having on ‘eco-systems’ – is that the availability of office space will increase and that might spur FDI into our bigger cities.

  67. Stred
    Posted September 7, 2020 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Under it’s new CEO, Mr Looney, BP has decided to sell it’s London head office and use homeworking while selling the refining business to INEOS. Perhaps they are going into subsidy mining in the rush to go to zero ‘carbon’ by 2030-50. Energy firms have already formed one of the CCCs industry clusters in the Middlesbrough area and are working towards capturing the CO2 from all the factories, freezing it and shoving it under the North Sea in old oilfieds. The hydrogen we will have to use instead of methane will cost much more, but the customer will subsidise by law.

  68. Mike Durrans
    Posted September 7, 2020 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Sir, i would write and send hard copies to all employees.

    That would state that they must be back at their place of employment by a set date and if they are not in attendance , them they must submit a Doctors note stating the period of absence or they will Be deemed to have resigned.

  69. John
    Posted September 7, 2020 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    There is a profit in renting less office space and reduced travel expenses. This is starting to be fed through in the dividends and so is becoming part of the margins in gaining access to capital markets.

    There seems to be about 1/3 of employees that want to be back in the office environment and there is a natural symbiosis for those to be the mentors and trainers for graduates etc. Screens between desks to reduce office space needed.

    Not heard yet that the property funds are looking to change use of some offices to residential to get liquidity but that could happen. If so would greatly increase the residential capacity of cities.

    Greater economic activity now happening in local areas obviously.

    • a-tracy
      Posted September 8, 2020 at 8:10 am | Permalink

      But why would residential space be required in Cities John if Cities footfall dies?

  70. glen cullen
    Posted September 7, 2020 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    My neighbour and friend is a senior civil servant and is currently working from home.

    He’s just informed me that his WFH will continue for another 12 months…..he’s so happy, apart from his concern over the next promotion ?

    I thought the policy was to get everyone working back to normal

  71. a-tracy
    Posted September 14, 2020 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Top ‘working from home’ problem:

    When you have a problem as a customer of a big company or government office they send you an e-mail saying “your e-mail or problem is in a queue and due to covid19 we are having to adapt our own working patterns … we may not be able to respond as quickly as we would normally like to e-mails”.

    These issues are unresolved after a fortnight, no-one able to be contacted, offices closed, MPs not responding. If productivity is good with people working at home, and all these people are being paid for working at home why can’t issues be answered as normal?

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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