Northern Powerhouse or Northern poorhouse?

Save BIS Sheffield

Northern Powerhouse or Northern poorhouse?

Part of the PCS contingent on the 2011 N30 London demo, photo Senan

Part of the PCS contingent on the 2011 N30 London demo, photo Senan   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Marion Lloyd, PCS union group President in Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

It is clear that the attempts by this Tory government to drive a coach and horses through all the gains we have won have no bounds. Latest is the complete decimation of the civil service through their so called “estates strategy” which could see more than 600 government buildings close throughout the UK.

This will not only see thousands of civil service workers made redundant, but the impact on the delivery of key services and on local communities will be of a magnitude never before experienced.

What this means in the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), the alleged department for growth, is “efficiency” savings of 40% and a reduction in premises from 86 to six. The impact would be devastating.

Tip of the iceberg

Across BIS we have already had the withdrawal of funding from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, based in Rotherham, the privatisation of the Green Investment Bank, the announcement of the privatisation of Land Registry (see below) and the closing down of the National Weights and Measurements Regulations Office.

We know this is just the tip of the iceberg.

But probably as shocking was the announcement from the department that 300 policy jobs are set to be moved to London if senior management in BIS have their way.

On 28 January, management told staff in Sheffield that the office would be closed and all policy jobs would move to London. This will result in the loss of 250 jobs in Sheffield. This announcement alone gives nonsense to the Tories’ Northern Powerhouse rhetoric.

Moving hundreds of jobs to London will have a devastating impact on the local economy and communities. In Sheffield an already poor city will become poorer. These plans must be stopped.

PCS BIS group leapt immediately into action and less than 24 hours later we had questions being asked in parliament, local and national press coverage and had enlisted the support of local MPs, local councillors, unions and the press. We have worked tirelessly to build a campaign around a clear set of demands including no compulsory redundancies and no office closures without union agreement. This has included linking up with PCS branches across the city and contacting other unions.

Industrial muscle

Central to the campaign is the industrial muscle of civil service workers. Within a couple of weeks we achieved three key changes from the employer.

Their decision suddenly became a proposal, they added a two month extension to their consultation period and conceded that the movement of work from non-Sheffield locations into London had a more relaxed timeline.

However this is not enough. We are determined to keep our office open. We have agreed to ballot for industrial action if management don’t agree to withdraw their proposals.

The Socialist Party fully supports PCS members fighting this attack. Reverse all cuts – for investment in decent jobs for all, throughout the country.

  • Join the 9 April Powerhouse or Poorhouse demonstration march and rally to #SaveBISSheffield!

    Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP and PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka will be speaking at the rally, plus other local and regional speakers.

    Assemble at 12pm on Saturday 9 April at Devonshire Green, Sheffield, S3 7SW ending with a rally at 1pm at City Hall, S1 2JA