Yesterday the House of Commons approved my motion calling on the National Audit Office to conduct a cost benefit assessment of the proposal to close the Sheffield BIS Office.
MPs spent two hours on Monday evening in the House of Commons debating the Business, Innovation and Skills Department’s proposal to move all policy functions to London and close its St Paul’s Place office in Sheffield. MPs from across the political spectrum criticised the proposal on the grounds that it goes against Government policy to move civil servants outside the capital, and that it will actually cost £2.5million a year.
Responding to the debate on behalf of the Government, BIS Minister Anna Soubry stressed the decision to close the Sheffield office was not yet final, whilst admitting no full assessment has been made of the cost of replacing the 247 Sheffield jobs and moving them to London.
It is simply not good enough for the Minister to say no assessment has been made of the cost implications of this decision. This is the Business Department; no business would ever operate in that way. It is disappointing we have had to call in the National Audit Office, but MPs from all parties were clear. If that’s what it takes to get this decision properly scrutinised, so be it. There is still time for the Department to withdraw the decision and start again.