Saturday, 9 October 2010

Let's have an objective evaluation of public service in Wales

I couldn't agree more with Peter Black when he writes about the proposed closure of the passport office in Newport, Gwent:

this is the wrong move for two main reasons:

Firstly, this is not some regional sub-office. Wales is a country in its own right and though we rightly form part of the United Kingdom in terms of Home Affairs and Foreign Relations, there is a great deal of sense in having a passport office based here, both for employment reasons and prestige. The fact that Wales will become the only country in Europe without a fully-fledged passport office is actually very significant.

Secondly, if the Home Office is trying to save money by reducing the number of local offices then they have chosen the wrong target. Everybody knows that civil service offices in London are difficult to sustain. The over-heating economy in the South East makes it hard to attract staff due to the relatively poor wages civil servants get, the rent, rates and general overhead costs of keeping offices in London are massively more expensive than elsewhere, and the rationale for keeping an office in the UK capital tends to rest on prestige rather than sound economics.

The logical alternative would be to close the London Passport Office and relocate the head office functions elsewhere. That would save far more money and ensure that the job losses occurred in an area where there are at least alternative jobs. It would also enhance the Newport Office as it would then become the nearest passport office to the Southern international airports albeit with good transport links along the M4 and on the main train line.

The Government seem to be arguing that people from South Wales and the South West of England can travel to London to get their passport. I say, let those in the South East of England come here instead.

Perhaps the coalition government rationale is to reduce the number of public sector jobs in Wales, where they form a higher proportion of employed people than in most parts of the UK. However, only 300 posts in Newport are involved, and surely, of all civil service jobs, they are most critical to selling ourselves abroad. This supposedly business-friendly government should not make it more difficult for businesses in Wales to extend their markets by travelling abroad.

No comments: