Friday, January 29, 2016

News: BIS to close Sheffield office

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The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) has announced plans to close its Sheffield office - a move the Prospect union claims puts 250 staff at risk and "makes a mockery of the Northern Powerhouse ideal."

As the Government department responsible for economic growth, the civil service has had a long association with the city. Permanent Secretary Martin Donnelly has now announced plans to close the office in the prime St Paul's Place location by 2018 as the department creates a combined central HQ and policy centre in London.

Around six business centres will also be established across the country. Each one will focus on a key business activity so that BIS can bring the relevant expertise together, move people quickly to new priorities and build capability.

Speaking at the Sheffield offices yesterday, Martin Donnelly said: "Today's 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.

"It is my top priority that all our staff are fully briefed and consulted on the process. We will provide comprehensive support to all those facing a potential change or loss of job.

"In relation to the new business centres, we will be working closely with our Partner Bodies over the coming months to develop firm plans for their office locations."

Civil service union Prospect has condemned the plans. Negotiator Julie Flanagan said: "We hear lots of rhetoric about the importance of the regional growth agenda and the need to develop a Northern Powerhouse. Today's announcement – and others like it – makes a mockery of the Government's stated policy. Greater centralisation of power in London will create an even bigger gulf with the regions.

"As the wording makes clear, this move is all about accommodating large reductions in headcount and nothing to do with the department's core function of boosting business.

"No relocation expenses have been offered to staff in Sheffield, so most of them face the very real threat of redundancy. However, given the state of pay in the civil service it will be no easy task recruiting to new roles in one of the world's most expensive cities."

BIS website

Images: GVA

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