Unions attack plans to close Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ office in Sheffield

Civil service unions criticise BIS’s decision to shut its Sheffield office – placing 250 jobs in jeopardy – and warn further job losses will follow

By Jim Dunton

28 Jan 2016

Union leaders have reacted angrily to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ plans to close its Sheffield office.

Permanent secretary Martin Donnelly travelled to the city on Thursday to announce that the South Yorkshire base, which has 247 staff, would close “by 2018” and see its policy and corporate work relocated to central London. 

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Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, said the decision flew in the face of BIS’s very reason for being.

“The business department is supposed to lead the way in helping local economies grow after the recession, yet it is retreating from towns and cities across the country,” he said.

"We do not accept the need for these offices to close and for jobs to be at risk and will be opposing these moves."

PCS said it understood BIS would be withdrawing from other sites across the UK, “putting a further 100 jobs at risk”.

Helen Kenny, national officer responsible for BIS at senior public sector leaders’ union FDA, said no advance warning of Donnelly’s announcement had been given.

“We are disappointed by the decision, and by the fact that we have not been consulted about it or even informed in advance of the announcement,” she said.

“However, we will fully engage with the department in an attempt to get the best outcome for our members.”

Sheffield City Council leader Julie Dore said the closure plans were “unacceptable” and pledged to write to business secretary Sajid Javid to call for them to be scrapped.

Announcing the closure decision earlier in the day, Donnelly said the end of operations in Sheffield was part of efficiency measures contained in the as-yet unpublished BIS 2020 strategic plan. He added that “around six business centres would be created” across the country counteracting the closure.

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

BIS told Civil Service World that it was not immediately aware of the basis for the PCS claim that a further 100 jobs were at risk, but added that the 2020 strategic plan was more wide-ranging than the closure of the Sheffield office.

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