A LABOUR MP has branded an announcement over the proposed closure of a government office in Sheffield as “farcical” after workers facing redundancy were reportedly told it was “because the phones and computers don’t work properly”.
Louise Haigh also hit out at the “lack of empathy shown for those workers” at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (Bis) confronting the prospect of losing their jobs.
Business Secretary Sajid Javid said his department needed to do “everything we possibly can to help”, but stressed the Government had an obligation to taxpayers to make sure all departments were run “efficiently and effectively”.
Speaking during Commons questions, Ms Haigh, MP for Sheffield Heeley, said: “Can the minister confirm that in a briefing to Bis workers whose jobs are at risk in Sheffield on Friday, one of the main reasons given for closing the office was, and I quote, ‘because the phones and computers don’t work properly’.
“Is the Minister for Innovation seriously saying that the department responsible for sending people to space cannot find a way to communicate properly with an office 150 miles up the road and will the minister now reflect on the way this farcical announcement was made and the lack of empathy shown for those workers.”
Labour MPs attacked Tory frontbencher Anna Soubry last Friday during a stormy urgent question over the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills’ (Bis) decision to close its Sheffield office in St Paul’s Place by 2018, which they argued undermined the Government’s Northern Powerhouse.
The move could result in job losses among the 247 staff and was described by Labour as a “hammer blow” to the Yorkshire city and a warning to those working at 12 other Bis regional offices.
Commons Speaker John Bercow at one stage ordered Business Minister Ms Soubry to “be quiet and listen”, adding: “It’s not about you, it’s about the issue.”
Mr Javid replied: “No one, Mr Speaker, takes these decisions lightly and of course there are a number of people and their families that are affected and we need to do everything we possibly can to help.
“But we do have an obligation on behalf of the taxpayers to make sure that we spend their money wisely and that means making sure that all Government departments are run efficiently and effectively. Even after this change my department will have more people, the vast majority of people outside of London and that’s the right thing.”