400 jobs at risk at DWP site

An aerial view of the old Premium Bonds site at Heyhouses Lane/Moorland Road, St Annes.
An aerial view of the old Premium Bonds site at Heyhouses Lane/Moorland Road, St Annes.
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Hundreds of jobs are under threat at a Fylde coast office as part of plans to relocate staff outside the North West.

Union chiefs say IT giant Hewlett Packard is proposing to move around 400 jobs based at Heyhouses Lane, St Annes, to new offices in Scotland and the North East of England.

Hugh Evans

Hugh Evans

Unions today warned the move would hit the area hard, while business chiefs described the news as a “body blow” for the Fylde coast.

Under the plans, staff - who provide IT services to the Department for Work and Pensions - face the choice of either moving to Cobalt, near Newcastle or Erskine, near Glasgow by October this year - or losing their jobs.

Currently there are around 700 staff based at the St Annes site. However, part of the building is being demolished to make way for 250 homes, a Booths supermarket and a pub.

Alan Brown, the Public and Commercial Sector (PCS) union’s full time official, said they are now speaking to members about ways to oppose the job losses.

He said: “The loss of these jobs will be felt hard in the North West.

“HP have a hard working, dedicated workforce in Lytham who deliver important IT services for vital public services.

“What is clear from this announcement is the level of service to the DWP (already under fire for failed IT projects) will suffer and this should be of concern to politicians and the public alike.

The union says around 250 of the St Annes jobs will be relocated by the end April, with the remaining 150 to be relocated between July and October.

A spokesman for the PCS added: “On January 28 2014, HP gave notice of nearly 800 redundancies in the UK to take place by the end of April 2014.

“More than 250 of these will be at the St Annes site and more job cuts are planned during July and October, bringing the total number of lost jobs on the Fylde coast to over 400.

“All those facing dismissal work on major DWP computer systems such as Job Seekers Allowance and the Personal Independence Payment system.”

Hewlett Packard have cut thousands of jobs worldwide since May 2012.

The company said back then that it expected 27,000 jobs, about eight per cent of its workforce, to lose their jobs by October 2014. Several months later it revised that figure to 29,000 to be cut by October 31, which marks the end of its 2014 fiscal year.

Hugh Evans, policy director at the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, described today’s news as “dreadful”.

He said: “It’s a body blow for the Fylde economy and in the current climate it’s difficult to see where new job opportunities are going to come from.

“Given the nature of cutbacks in the public sector there’s always an air of inevitability that contractors working for Government departments could be under threat.

“It’s good news for Scotland and the north east but dreadful news for the Fylde coast.

“Until you see the scale of job losses you don’t know how big an impact they are going to have. Blackpool’s economy is not diverse enough because we are talking about trying to find work for a lot of skilled people and job opportunities are just not there at the moment.”

Paul Maynard, MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, said he will fight to keep the jobs on the Fylde coast.

He added: “I remain committed to campaigning to retain as many civil service jobs on the Fylde as possible.

“Local MPs are certainly trying to secure a further meeting with the DWP minister Mike Penning, who is due to be visiting the Fylde very soon and this is a matter of grave concern that we will look to raise with him. If the number of job losses is as bad as is reported them I’m naturally dismayed, but I wish to make further enquiries to look at what the proposals are.”

A spokesman for Fylde MP Mark Menzies added: “Mark has met with HP staff and has been throughout the Make It Better strategy (HP’s policy of relocating jobs). He is meeting with executives from HP next week to discuss the most recent turn of events.”

John Moxham, chairman of St Annes chamber of Trade, said: “It’s disappointing.

“This has been expected as the Heyhouses site was gradually closed down and it was assumed there would be some jobs re-located.

“It is far from ideal for people to be re-located.”

A spokesman for the HP said consultation on job relocation is ongoing and numbers of jobs affected could not be confirmed, but would not elaborate further.

The spokesman added: “We are not currently expecting any site closures as a direct consequence of our workforce management plan/consultation.”