Tired of London, tired of life, goes the saying: "for there is in London all that life can afford".
The Lyons Review in 2004 emphatically disagreed with Dr Johnson on the subject of affordability, however, calculating that £2.3bn could be saved by moving 20,000 civil servants out of the capital and expensive south-east England.
Ian Smith, former boss of publisher Reed Elsevier, is about to become the latest to tackle this issue.
Forming part of next week's budget, Smith's report is expected to recommend a further 15,000 public sector jobs be moved to the regions, targeting departments, such as Communities and Local Government, which escaped relatively lightly last time.
The department still has 2,000 posts in the south-east, albeit a fraction of the 135,000 civil servants in the region as a whole.
How do senior managers feel about relocating? For some, particularly those whose children are at the right age, it presents an opportunity. Dave Sharp, who was manager of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) core table unit in London, and moved to Newport with the ONS in December 2005, is positive.
A different office culture
"It was a case of adapting to a different office culture and a new environment – I hadn't been familiar with Newport at all – but I actively embraced it," he says. "It was a good time with my children, and nice to get away from the commuting and congestion to somewhere new with good career prospects. I've since been promoted, so the whole thing worked out very nicely for me."
When the Gambling Commission was created to replace the former Gaming Board, the new organisation was set up in Birmingham, where a spokesperson cites "access to first-rate employees" and much lower sickness rates as two of the positive features of being based in the city.
New departments may find it easier to relocate than those that are more entrenched, but geography is also a factor.
Top Whitehall officials are privately concerned that proximity to London increases the chances of losing staff to city-based jobs. Successful relocations depend on opportunities for career progression, they say, which means having a "critical mass" of civil servants in a particular region.
The implication is that if more and bigger departments don't engage with relocation London and the south-east will continue to be places senior civil servants are unwilling to leave.
That has certainly been Sharp's experience: given the choice of moving west or moving on, the rest of his 10-strong unit decided against Newport. "In the long run, everyone knew it was either relocate or find another job," he comments. "I ended up coming down on my own, and recruiting and training fewer people to do the same volume of work."
Philip Whiteman of the Institute of Local Government Studies in Birmingham, says the economy makes Smith 2010 a different proposition to Lyons 2004. "The prospect of redundancies will be greater for civil servants at risk of relocation, and the opportunity for remaining in London will be less," he says. "Relocation can construct a redundancy situation."
In effect, the options for doing the same job in a different town are narrowing just as the recession and budget cuts conspire to make people more receptive to the idea.
Information technology and communications
Advances in information technology and communications since Lyons has undercut the claims of policy-making departments that they need to stay close to the power centre – Whiteman singles out the Treasury, the Culture, Media and Sport Department, the Foreign Office and international development. Lyons said "national policy can be and is done perfectly well out of London", citing the department of health and the then-department of Education and Skills.
More important to senior managers, especially those who are less established, are the informal networking opportunities that Whitehall provides.
"Lyons found a particular problem with what is classified as 'policy-making' and which civil servants should covered by this terminology," says Whiteman.
"Clearly it is not in the spirit of the relocation policy if bureaucrats that are defensive of any proposed move out of London can class themselves as policy-makers. Exceptions may include those officials from the FCO or DFID who have to be in London to meet with international delegations, but one could question whether this is the case with all policy-makers."