In advance of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s statement yesterday (the
Comprehensive Spending Review, 12th July 2004) when he announced civil
service cuts and the relocation of many remaining civil servants to regions
outside London, Michael Fabricant tabled parliamentary written questions to
every Government minister who heads a department. He asked: "How many
civil servants and what percentage of the total Civil Service workforce will
be relocated over the next 5 years (a) outside the M25, (b) to the West
Midlands, and ( c) to Staffordshire. Michael says: "The replies which have
just come in have been very disappointing. Not one said they would be
deploying civil servants to the West Midlands, let alone Staffordshire.
"I tabled these questions to ministers after a meeting I had with the North
Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce in Stoke on Trent as Shadow Minister for
Economic Affairs. They are keen, as I am, to see civil service jobs
relocated to Staffordshire and the West Midlands to boost the economy of the
region. I think they will be as disappointed as I am with these complacent
responses from Government ministers who do Staffordshire no favours.
Many Government Ministers said no decisions have been made yet despite the
Chancellor of the Exchequer saying two years ago that he wanted civil
servants deployed outside London. David Lammy, the minister at the
Department of Constitutional Affairs (formerly the Lord Chancellor’s
Department) told me that 90% of his staff are already located outside London
at court locations. But that was the best news. Gareth Thomas, the minister
at the Department for International Development, said 85 jobs – 5% of the
total workforce – will be moving to East Kilbride but none would be moving
to the West Midlands. Charles Clarke, Secretary of State for Education and
Skills, said that 70% of his department’s staff work outside London. But it
seems there are no plans to move any central staff to the West Midlands.
"Ministers from the departments of Work and Pensions, Health, the Cabinet
Office, Transport, the Deputy Prime Minister, Environment Food & Rural
Affairs, Defence, and Culture Media & Sport simply referred to an answer
given to me by the Treasury which refers to the Lyons report which, in turn,
says it is desirable for civil service posts to be moved outside London.
But Paul Boateng, Gordon Brown’s deputy who gave the Treasury’s reply, in
his answer to me simply added ‘It will be for the departments themselves to
determine their own dispersal strategies in the light of their particular
business needs and priorities’.
"I hope that some of those departments might still consider that ‘their
particular business needs and priorities’ might include Staffordshire",