Minister defends cost-cutting closure of civil service offices

Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude has defended the Government’s cost-cutting cull of civil service offices across the region.

Since the coalition came into power Mr Maude has been responsible for reforming the public sector, which has seen the closure of the government’s regional offices and the number of civil servants based in Yorkshire plummet.

But during a promotional tour of the region yesterday, the MP dismissed suggestions that reversing the trend would benefit Yorkshire, claiming private sector jobs are the key to boosting the economy.

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He said: “We’re reducing the size of the civil service everywhere, it’s fallen by 15 per cent and it will fall further by the next election to round 25 per cent. Overall most of the job losses have been in London and the south east.

“I don’t think any of us feel that the way to support the regional economy is by making more and more public sector jobs. We need the space for the private sector to invest and we need the public and private sector working together to release that space for the private sector to create jobs.”

Mr Maude defended the loss of civil service jobs across Yorkshire, stating there is still a “significant presence” in major cities.

He added that the future of government offices could see more facilities moving online and services moving to other places in the community, such as the post office. He said: “We did close down the regional offices, but we have a significant regional presence in Leeds as the health service has a base there, and in Sheffield, where there’s education and civil service activity.

“What we want to do is increase that rather than government having one big bureaucratic agency. The pattern has been that there are large regional offices which aren’t quite right for the population, and to get stuff done you have to go to different places.

“A lot of services will be delivered online and it’s cheaper. When people need to renew their car tax, rather than going to a specific government office, we should be able to deliver that through a library or a post office.

“There’s a lot of ways of delivering government services rather than having a lot of offices dotted around.”