Thousands demand Government U-turn on Sheffield job cuts plan

Sheffield MP Paul Blomfield
Sheffield MP Paul Blomfield
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More than 2,000 people have signed a petition urging the Government to reverse plans to cut hundreds of jobs in Sheffield.

The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills announced last week it is to shut its Sheffield office, costing almost 250 jobs as their work is transferred to London by January 2018.

It has emerged the department, which is partly responsible for implementing the Government’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’ concept, paid a London firm of consultants £200,000 for a report on making cutbacks that influenced the decision to shut the Sheffield site.

An online petition against the plan started on Monday has already gathered more than 2,000 signatures – and is backed by local MPs.

The petition states: “On January 28 the department responsible for the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ initiative announced the closure of its largest non-London office.

“Government is too London-based and the capital’s economy is outperforming the North. It is completely the wrong strategy to rebalance our nation’s economy.”

Sheffield student Robin Wilde, who started the petition, said: “This news is a blow to Sheffield and wrong policy from the Government.

“For the Northern Powerhouse to be a reality, public services must be delivered nationally.

“What is even worse is that the Government paid £200,000 to London consultants to advise them to take jobs from the North of England.

“I urge everyone to sign this petition to encourage the Government to reverse this decision.”

If the petition reaches 10,000 signatures, the Government will have to produce a response and if 100,000 people sign, it will be debated in Parliament.

Local Labour MPs Paul Bliomfield, Louise Haigh and Michael Dugher have urged people to sign the petition.

Mr Blomfield said the closure of the Sheffield office could cost the local economy millions of pounds each year.

He said he intends to challenge minister Sajid Javid about the closure plan at a meeting of the BIS select committee next week.

“Part of the problem in this country is that big decision that effect the nation are made by people who live, work and bring up their families in London,” he said.

“Most of us don’t live there and it is a very different experience. Spreading people around the country is an important way of keeping Government in touch.”

The Department of Business said the move is designed to help it reduce operating costs, with a central HQ and policy centre being established in London.

BIS Permanent Secretary Martin Donnelly said: “The announcement is part of implementing our BIS 2020 strategic plans to modernise the way we work, reduce operating costs and deliver a simpler, smaller department that is more flexible and responsive to stakeholders and businesses.

“Our operating model needs to be designed in a way that works for this smaller workforce with more streamlined structures.

“The decision to close Sheffield by 2018 has not been taken lightly. The unions are being consulted and will be involved throughout the process.”

*To view the petition, visit https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/120406