Watchdog to investigate Sheffield Government office closure

The PCS union has been protesting against the Sheffield office closure
The PCS union has been protesting against the Sheffield office closure
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The controversial decision to close a Sheffield Government office and move its work to London is to be scrutinised by a public spending watchdog.

It was announced last month that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will be shutting its Sheffield policy office by 2018 - a move that will affect 247 workers.

The National Audit Office has now confirmed that decision will be examined as part of a wider investigation into the department’s efforts to save £350m by 2020.

Local MPs including Paul Blomfield and Louise Haigh had campaigned for a NAO investigation over concerns that closing the Sheffield office and moving jobs to London will actually cost the taxpayer money rather than saving anything.

Amyas Morse, comptroller and auditor general of the NAO, has written to Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, to confirm an investigation will take place.

The letter said: “I have asked my staff to start work scoping a value-for-money study looking at the implementation of the early stages of the BIS 2020 programnme.

“This would not be a study of the decision to close the Sheffield office per se but it would be an examination of the overall programme, of which the Sheffield decision is part.

“The study, subject to further scoping work, is likely to include the planning, analysis and oversight of the programme.”

A PCS spokesman said: “This is a very welcome development that we hope will shed some light on the plans, which we still think should be scrapped. Ministers and senior officials have utterly failed to make the case for Sheffield to close and for these jobs to move out of a Northern Powerhouse city and back to central London.”

Business department permanent secretary Martin Donnelly has said the decision to close the office was taken as part of efforts to create a ‘smaller and more flexible’ organisation.