Prime minister David Cameron and Northern Powerhouse minister James Wharton on 13 April 2015
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (DBIS) announced on Thursday that its largest office outside London, in Sheffield, would close by 2018, in favour of a combined HQ and policy centre in London.
While this seems like a rather unremarkable piece of news, may we take this opportunity to remind you Chancellor George Osborne trumpeted work towards a 'Northern Powerhouse' in the general election last in the Autumn Statement, which DBIS was heavily involved in.
The parallel was spotted by Buzzfeed journalists Laura Silver and Matthew Champion:
The Guardian reported the announced closure of DBIS's largest office outside London, and comments from Paul Blomfield, the Labour MP for Sheffield Central:
The north needs jobs and London’s overheating. This move makes no sense and it exposes Osborne’s empty rhetoric of the northern powerhouse once again. I’ve pressed ministers to move public sector jobs out of London, as Labour did, and I’ll be challenging this decision at every opportunity.
Martin Donnelly, permanent secretary for the department, said that the move is part of a programme of reductions to the departments costs and staff size:
Our operating model needs to be designed in a way that works for this smaller workforce with more streamlined structures.
The civil service trade union, Prospect, said that they were only briefed of plans to close the Sheffield office 30 minutes prior to the announcement, and condemned the action.
The Minister for the Northern Powerhouse (or Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government) has been contacted for comment.