Private spin doctors ‘to explain Sheffield office axe to Government staff’

Trade unions hold a protest march through Sheffield at plans to axe 250 jobs and move the work to London. Photo: Chris Etchells
Trade unions hold a protest march through Sheffield at plans to axe 250 jobs and move the work to London. Photo: Chris Etchells
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Private spin doctors are to be hired by the Government to ‘engage’ with staff about cutback plans that involve axing 250 Sheffield workers.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is inviting communications firms to bid for a £55,000 contract to improve staff awareness about its BIS 2020 restructuring programme, which aims to reduce operational costs by £350m.

As part of that process, it was recently confirmed the controversial closure of the department’s Sheffield office will take place by 2018, affecting 247 employees as their work is moved to London.

A tender document for the work said: “An agency is sought to help the department as part of the BIS 2020 transformation programme.

“The agency needs to provide expert capability in helping organisations to refine and ground narratives and business models, and be skilled in doing this by involving and engaging staff at all levels.”

It said one key objective will be to help staff ‘better understand the new business model’, which is based on a principle of ‘Simpler, Cheaper and Better’.

The document said the agency which is employed should act in a ‘low-key way’ while shaping the approach.

Details have been revealed after public spending watchdog the National Audit Office announced it would be investigating the department’s plans for cuts.

Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield said the attempt to hire outside consultants was a waste of public money and highlights the question marks over the decision to close the Sheffield office.

He said: “This goes to show how weak the business department recognises its case is that they’ve had to employ spin doctors to sell it to an unconvinced staff.

“It’s also a further waste of public money.

“The department should be thinking creatively about how they can best benefit from policy-making outside the capital at lower cost, not hiring communications experts at taxpayers’ expense to spin their flawed plans.”

A BIS spokesperson said: “Led by the Permanent Secretary and his Executive Board, our BIS 2020 business model will modernise the way the Department works to become smaller, more responsive and efficient, as well as saving around £350 million for the taxpayer by 2020 in operational costs.

“This transformation programme applies to 20,000 staff in BIS across the UK and all of its locations and partner bodies. It’s therefore important that we support and engage with staff on delivering this ambitious restructure and change.”