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THE QUESTION - London HQs

THE QUESTION?: New Labour has decided to return to its roots by moving its national headquarters to the North East. Labour sees no need for a large presence near London or its place of core business - Westminster - so why do civils companies?

The development of electronic communications and project extranets has significantly reduced the practical requirement to establish large central offices. The successful operation of global project teams clearly demonstrates this. However, electronic communications do not recognise the personal dimension to business. My experience is that it is now more important than ever to demonstrate commitment to a particular client or locality by establishing an office convenient to the intended market. The size of that presence depends very much on the size of the market you are seeking to tap into.

Simon Lawrence, 28, civil engineer, Cardiff.

I do not think that maintaining a London presence is important to clients. More important is the company's ability to provide quality, service and value to the client. If a company has a very good reputation then it should not matter whether their HQ is in the Midlands, the North or Scotland. The cost savings from the cheaper overheads could be used to give even better value to clients. This is the 21st century and modern technology allows live video conferencing across the world - surely a few hundred miles between the client and engineering company's HQ can be easily managed.

Nic Luker, 27, field engineer, Kent Any move which reduces the north-south divide must be welcomed. However, the reality is that a move away from a client's headquarters may be interpreted as a lack of client nurturing and any subsequent reduction in commissions would force companies back to the centre of the universe (London), where they have such pleasures as high rent costs, inflated salaries and the joy of commuting.

Paul Speakman, 30, assistant project manager, Manchester From a sustainability viewpoint I think it is important that major companies do move from the 'core' (London) to the 'periphery' (regions) to avoid the loss of young talent from the regions. Which could take me onto the problems facing the regions, in particular how rural areas are suffering and the lack of government understanding for rural issues - but I will save that for another day!

Rob Andrew, 36, chief engineer, Cornwall I have just heard that the London Underground moves more people each day than all the national surface railways combined. Who wants to live like that? Being near London is not particularly important, although the north might be a bit too far - try Milton Keynes or somewhere between Coventry and Leicester like Galliford. There is nothing grim about the north - unless all of London was to move there.

Eric Gray, land reclamation engineer, Warwickshire Despite all the problems with the London transport system, the capital is still quite easy to get to. Birmingham is more accessible for most parts of the country but it will take a lot of effort and changes to catch up.

Andrew Chan, researcher, Birmingham

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