National Audit Office probes BIS 2020 savings programme

Watchdog tells civil service union it is looking into the £350m cost-reduction scheme that includes Sheffield office closure

By Jim Dunton

10 Jun 2016

The National Audit Office is conducting an early-stage investigation into the assumptions contained in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ BIS 2020 strategy, it has emerged.

The watchdog has acknowledged that scoping work has begun for a probe of the programme, which was underpinned by a report commissioned from consultants McKinsey, that will see BIS’s Sheffield office closed and the department’s policy roles cut by 25%.

The news comes in response to a request from the Public and Commercial Services Union, whose general secretary Mark Serwotka wrote to comptroller general Sir Amyas Morse requesting an in-depth examination of BIS’s case for closing down its Sheffield operations and relocating staff to London. 

Martin Donnelly: BIS Sheffield closure could save more than £14m 

BIS savings plan will require thousands of job cuts, leaked document shows 

A response from Morse, seen by Civil Service World, confirms that staff have been asked to start working on a value-for-money study that will look at the early stages of the implementation of BIS 2020.

“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," Morse said.

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

Morse said the work would be led by Peter Gray, director of the NAO’s BIS Value For Money team.

Plans to close BIS’s Sheffield operations were first announced in December, when BIS perm sec Martin Donnelly travelled to the offices to talk to staff. A decision to proceed with the closure was confirmed last month. 

Donnelly told a Public Accounts Committee hearing last month that the Sheffield closure alone could save more than £14m, of which £890,000 would be annual rent costs. That figure is disputed by Serwotka and PCS.

Staff at the Sheffield office have begun a series of strikes over the closure decision.

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