Civil service job cuts in Sheffield show Northern Powerhouse is ‘hot air’, say MPs

The Government has announced the closure of the Dept of Business, Innovation and Skills based at 2 St Pauls Square in Sheffield
The Government has announced the closure of the Dept of Business, Innovation and Skills based at 2 St Pauls Square in Sheffield

The planned loss of almost 300 Government jobs from Sheffield has shown the Northern Powerhouse concept is ‘just hot air’, an MP has said.

Harry Harpham, Labour MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough, said this week’s announcement that the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills is to shut its regional office in Sheffield and transfer jobs to London is another blow for the local economy.

Harry Harpham MP at Parliament

Harry Harpham MP at Parliament

The BIS says the move is a necessary cost-saving measure as it prepares to ‘streamline’ its operations with fewer staff.

Mr Harpham said: “The announcement of the closure of the BIS office in Sheffield will have come as bitter news to those who now find themselves facing redundancy, and my heart goes out to them.

“Of course this comes hard on the heels of Sheffield Forgemasters’ decision to cut 100 jobs, and the announcement back in November that the HMRC tax office in the city will close with 500 jobs to go.

“It’s no wonder people are questioning George Osborne’s so-called ‘Northern Powerhouse’. We’ve had the flash press statements and photo ops, but when actual jobs are on the line we see that the Government’s rhetoric is just hot air.

“If they want to get serious about the Northern economy they should stop moving civil service jobs to London, and start providing proper support instead of empty promises.”

His comments have been echoed by fellow Sheffield Labour MPs Louise Haigh and Paul Blomfield.

Miss Haigh said: “This decision makes a mockery of the Government’s claim to be driving investment in the North. Delays in the Midland Mainline and the shocking under-funding of flood defences already prove that while the Tories talk the talk on the Northern Powerhouse for the civil servants whose jobs are at risk and for the people of Sheffield actions speak louder than words.”

Mr Blomfield, who is a member of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, said: “Sheffield needs jobs and London’s overheating. This move makes no sense and it exposes George Osborne’s empty rhetoric about the Northern Powerhouse once again. I’ll be challenging this decision at every opportunity.”

BIS Permanent secretary Martin Donnelly said: “The announcement is part of implementing our plans to modernise the way we work, reduce operating costs and deliver a simpler, smaller department.”