I’ve written to the Business Secretary Greg Clark MP again today to seek assurances about the future of the Business Department’s presence in Sheffield.
A year ago the then Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced that it was moving all policy roles to London and closing the Sheffield office at St Paul’s Place, where 250 civil servants were based. I’ve opposed the move – which would incur additional costs, reduce opportunities in Sheffield and narrow the range of backgrounds from which civil servants are drawn - every step of the way. I led debates on it in Parliament, questioned Ministers, brought the issue before two of Parliament’s Select Committees and secured a National Audit Office investigation into the decision.
When further education, higher education and skills policy transferred from the Business Department to the Education Department last summer I called on the new Education Secretary Justine Greening MP to keep the affected posts in Sheffield, which she did. On the Business Department side, Secretary of State Greg Clark MP made a commitment in Parliament to “look carefully at what Sheffield can provide”, but other answers to my questions from Ministers have suggested that, even with the additional objective of developing an industrial strategy for the country, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) still plans to have all of its policy staff based in London. My letter today follows the Business Secretary’s comments to the BEIS Select Committee that the Department should have more than just “eyes and ears” in the regions.
The text of my letter to the Business Secretary is copied below:
Policy roles outside London and the Sheffield BEIS office
Further to my letters of 3 August and 21 October 2016, to which I appear not to have received replies, I am writing to request an update on the future of the BEIS Sheffield office and the Department’s plans for the location of policy staff more broadly.
I was pleased to see your commitment to BEIS not being a “Department that is concentrated in London” during the evidence session of the BEIS Select Committee on Wednesday 14 December. Likewise, I agree with your statement that the Department needs more than simply “eyes and ears” in the regions.
Could you therefore provide assurance that BEIS will not concentrate policy-making in the capital, particularly on industrial strategy policy?
Could you also assure me of the future of the Sheffield BEIS office, given your commitment made during Departmental Oral Questions on 13 September to “look carefully at what Sheffield can provide”? The arguments as to the cost advantages of the St Paul’s Place building – shared with DfE – as well as the value of Sheffield as a regional hub, and the importance of quality policy jobs being based there are well rehearsed. I stand ready to work with you to this end.
With best wishes,
Paul Blomfield MP