Minister forced to defend Sheffield office closure

Louise Haigh

Louise Haigh

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SHEFFIELD MP Louise Haigh claimed the planned closure of a Government office in Sheffield and the transfer of jobs to London showed ministers’ “contempt” for the North as she questioned the decision in the Commons today.

The Government announced the decision to close the Department for Business Innovation and Skills office in Sheffield, with potential loss of more than 200 jobs in the city, yesterday arguing the move would cut costs to the taxpayer.

But critics argued the move contradicted the Government’s claim to want to turn the North into an economic “powerhouse”.

Ms Haigh was granted an urgent question on the matter this morning, forcing a minister to defend the move in the Commons.

The Sheffield Heeley MP said: “It speaks to this Government’s London-centric focus and contempt for the North of England that they think a combined central HQ and policy centre has to be by rights in London rather than in Sheffield where the operating costs are cheaper and the perspective on UK investment much broader.”

Ms Haigh questioned why the proportion of civil servants working in London had risen since 2010.

She added: “For Sheffield which has now lost 500 jobs at HMRC, 100 jobs at Forgemasters, 400 jobs at the local authority, people in my city will be right to ask why have the Tories got it in for Sheffield?”

Replying to the question, Business Minister Anna Soubry told MPs the decision “has not been taken lightly” and the Government needed to spend taxpayers’ money “wisely, efficiently and effectively”.

“All of this is clearing up the mess left by the last Labour administration,” she added.

Sheffield City Region Combined Authority chairman Sir Steve Houghton said: “This move means jobs in Sheffield are going as the Government moves its staff back to London – this is centralisation at a time when the Government are promising decentralisation.

“This does not inspire confidence in the Government’s devolution and Northern Powerhouse agenda and may play into the hands of those who would say that ‘they give with one hand and take with the other’.”

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