Government plans to axe 250 Sheffield jobs and move work to London ‘falling apart’

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Plans to axe 250 Government jobs in Sheffield and move them to London are ‘falling apart’ after it was revealed there is no business case to back up the move.

Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield has called on the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills to scrap the proposed move in light of its most senior civil servant admitting there are no financial figures that justify it.

Up to 250 jobs are set to be lost in Sheffield when the department proposes to shut its doors in 2018.

Martin Donnelly, Permanent Secretary of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, appeared in front of Parliament’s cross-party Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday.

With £350m in departmental savings to make, Mr Donnelly said the executive board decided it was best to move all policy jobs from Sheffield and said the calculations were based on efficiency savings of having people working in one place.

But when asked what the exact cost of moving people out of Sheffield was, Mr Donnelly said there was no analysis available yet for the closure of the office or staff redundancies. He was also unable to say how many of the posts moved to London are occupied by those working on Government’s Northern Powerhouse project.

Chair of the Public Accounts Committee Meg Hillier disputed that centralising staff in London made better financial sense and insisted the cost benefit figures ‘must be there’.

She said she didn’t understand how it was cheaper to run services from a ‘very high rent building in London when you’ve got very people with institutional knowledge who are cheaper to employ in Sheffield’.

Mr Donnelly said: “It’s about the efficiency with which we can work when we have people in one place.”

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Blomfield said: “Mr Donnelly couldn’t put a figure on the cost of any redundancy packages for Sheffield staff, the cost of any relocation packages, how much the additional London salary weightings and expensive London office costs will add up to nor how much it will cost to equip London staff with the huge expertise that would be lost by closing the Sheffield office.

“He even had to resort to saying it was only occasionally useful for policy staff to brief Ministers face-to-face.

“Mr Donnelly’s performance was in stark contrast to his opposite number at the Department for Education, Chris Wormald, who before the same committee was unequivocal when asked about the value of policy-making outside of London. His Department intends to expand its presence in Sheffield.

“The BIS decision will cost the Government money, lose expertise, runs counter to Government policy ‘to move jobs outside of expensive Whitehall accommodation’ and drives a stake through the heart of the Northern Powerhouse agenda. Mr Donnelly and the Business Secretary should take a leaf out of the Chancellor’s book who this week dropped hugely controversial plans to cut disability benefits.

“The plan is falling apart and it needs to be scrapped. We will not let this issue rest.”

A demonstration is to take place in Sheffield in protest at Government plans to axe 250 civil servant jobs in the city and move the work to London.

Trade unions have planned a protest march through the city on Saturday April 9 in response to the proposals affecting workers currently employed by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.

The demonstration is to start on noon at Devonshire Green.