Today I raised my concerns over the failure of the Business Department’s top civil servant to provide the business case for the decision to close their Sheffield office and move 247 jobs to London.
Members of both the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee and Public Accounts Committee have met with the Department’s Permanent Secretary Martin Donnelly in recent weeks and expressed incredulity that transferring jobs to London could do anything other than increase costs for the Department. In separate hearings committee members, including me, have pressed him to release figures which we were told were not available. Subsequently I’ve had access to papers which include such figures. I raised the issue with the Speaker of the House of Commons, saying:
“Mr Speaker, you will be aware of the decision by the Business, Innovation and Skills department to close its Sheffield policy office. Despite repeated requests at the BIS Select Committee for the Department to share the figures on which the decision was based, the BIS Permanent Secretary told the Committee, and I quote, “I do not think I can point you to one specific document that covers specifically the Sheffield issue”. And in answer to a question asking for the costs from my Rt Hon Friend the Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch at the Public Accounts Committee, he said that the decision was, and again I quote, “Not based on individual cost-benefit analysis of a static closure”. Mr Speaker, I have now had access to a document entitled “BIS2020 -; Finance and Headcount outline” which does specifically cover the Sheffield issue, and is, in the Permanent Secretary’s words “an individual cost-benefit analysis of a static closure”. Can you therefore clarify whether the Permanent Secretary’s words constitute misleading the House? And can you advise me on how I can get this information in front of the two Committees of the House that have requested it?”
You can find out more about my challenge to BIS in the Mirror.