Government closing Sheffield office ‘because phones don’t work properly’

Louise Haigh MP
Louise Haigh MP
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Staff at a Government office in Sheffield face were told they face losing their jobs ‘because the phones don’t work properly’, an MP has claimed.

Around 250 jobs are set to be lost at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills office in Sheffield city centre as it is shut and its work transferred to London by January 2018.

The Government has announced the closure of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills based at 2 St Paul's Square in Sheffield

The Government has announced the closure of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills based at 2 St Paul's Square in Sheffield

Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh branded last week’s announcement ‘farcical’ as she told the House of Commons workers had reportedly been told one of the reasons for the closure was because of IT issues.

Miss Haigh also hit out at the ‘lack of empathy shown for those workers’ confronting the prospect of losing their jobs during a Commons debate on Tuesday.

Speaking during Commons BIS questions, Ms Haigh asked Business Secretary Sajid Javid: “Can the minister confirm that in a briefing to Bis workers whose jobs are at risk in Sheffield on Friday, one of the main reasons given for closing the office was, and I quote, ‘because the phones and computers don’t work properly’?

“Is the Minister for Innovation seriously saying that the department responsible for sending people to space cannot find a way to communicate properly with an office 150 miles up the road and will the minister now reflect on the way this farcical announcement was made and the lack of empathy shown for those workers?”

Mr Javid did not directly address the question about the phones and computers, but said the decision had been taken to ensure the Government was ‘spending money wisely’.

He said: “No one, Mr Speaker, takes these decisions lightly and of course there are a number of people and their families that are affected and we need to do everything we possibly can to help.

“But we do have an obligation on behalf of the taxpayers to make sure that we spend their money wisely and that means making sure that all Government departments are run efficiently and effectively. Even after this change my department will have more people, the vast majority of people outside of London and that’s the right thing.”

Labour MPs attacked Tory frontbencher Anna Soubry last Friday during a stormy urgent question over the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills’ (Bis) decision to close its Sheffield office in St Paul’s Place by 2018, which they argued undermined the Government’s Northern Powerhouse.

The move was described by Labour as a “hammer blow” to the Yorkshire city and a warning to those working at 12 other BIS regional offices.

Commons Speaker John Bercow at one stage ordered Business Minister Ms Soubry to “be quiet and listen”, adding: “It’s not about you, it’s about the issue.”