Final decision ‘not yet made’ on 250 Sheffield job cuts, says minister

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
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A final decision on axing 250 Government jobs in Sheffield has not yet been made, Business Minister Anna Soubry has said.

She told the House of Commons a ruling on controversial proposals by the Department of Business to shut its Sheffield office by 2018 will be made on May 23.

It was announced in January that the work of the 247 people currently employed in the city would be moved to London.

But following calls by MPs to suspend any final decision until the National Audit Office conducts a full assessment of the plan, Ms Soubry said ‘a final decision has not yet been made’.

She was speaking following a backbench debate on the plans after the department’s permanent secretary Martin Donnelly said no formal business case for the proposal had been created.

Ms Soubry said a ‘full assessment’ of the costs of the move is yet to be completed ahead of the department’s executive board making its decision.

She added: “Full consultation has taken place with unions and staff and several alternative proposals have been received.

“The BIS executive board will take full account of those in reaching their decision.”

Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield, who secured the debate, said it was ‘frankly extraordinary’ no cost-assessment of the move has yet been made.

Mr Blomfield said earlier in the debate he understood the final decision was originally due to have been taken this week but has been delayed.

He said: “I hope that reflects a willingness to think seriously about the criticisms that have been raised.”

Mr Blomfield called on business minister Anna Soubry to call in the National Audit Office to examine the decision and ‘exert ministerial authority to pull the plug’ on the decision.

He said Mr Donnelly had not disclosed details of the financial case for the move but calculations based on information MPs had managed to gather suggested switching jobs to London will be more costly for the taxpayer.

He said a leaked Government document had suggested 90 per cent of savings from the office closure would come from reducing the number of workers.

Mr Blomfield said no relocation packages had been offered to Sheffield to move to London.

Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts said moving jobs to London was ‘completely inconsistent’ with the Government’s Northern Powerhouse agenda.

Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg said the jobs switch plan was ‘wholly unjustified’ and ‘eccentric’. He said any savings that would be made appear to be ‘almost invisible’.

Louise Haigh, Sheffield Heeley MP, said a decision to close the office would be ‘highly symbolic’ and show a ‘contempt for the North’.