Hopes for new jobs get dashed

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UNION bosses today warned the transfer of hundreds of posts from a Fylde civil service base is a blow to hopes of bringing more government jobs to the area.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has announced it is to close its operation at Norcross and move 1,200 workers to Peel Park, Brunel Way, Blackpool.

Around 800 DWP workers are already based at Peel Park.

The DWP says the cost-cutting measure will mean no job losses – but it is feared it could dampen hopes of attracting new jobs to the Fylde.

Duncan Griffiths, leader for the Public and Commercial Services Union on the Fylde, said: “We remain to be convinced there won’t be jobs losses in the DWP or the contractors who work for the DWP on the Norcross site.

“We believe that when a site is closed, that is it, the chance of any jobs moving to the area in the future is diminished. The closure is another nail in the coffin of the Fylde’s economy.”

PCS branch assistant secretary Dean Rhodes added: “This means the opportunity to bring further jobs to the area will be lost forever. This will have a devastating effect on the local economy.”

There are also concerns about workers having to travel further to reach their workplace – and the impact on local businesses which rely on trade from civil servants.

The transfer of jobs is expected to be completed by next summer, leaving around 400 workers still based at Norcross who work for the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency.

A spokesman for the Veterans Agency said: “We are now in discussions with the DWP and the site landlord about retaining our current accommodation.”

Norcross was sold, along with government sites across the country, to an estate property management company a few years ago.

Policitians have vowed to continue the fight to bring government jobs to the Fylde, and to ensure the transfer from Norcross to Peel Park goes as smoothly as possible.

In a joint statement, council leaders from Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre said: “There is a great deal of professional expertise on the Fylde coast and we are all keen to see the area given a bigger role in delivering further government contracts in the future.

“We are pleased other government jobs based at Norcross are not affected by this decision and the area has further potential for future investment from all sectors. “

All five Fylde MPs recently met with DWP minister Chris Grayling to discuss the jobs situation.

Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard said; “There will be no job losses as a result of this decision and I have underlined to the minister the importance of retaining a public sector presence on the Fylde.”

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden said: “We need to emphasise to officials in the DWP that an area with 50 years of good service and experience should be earmarked for any work which comes out of future benefits changes.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “By summer 2013 staff will have been transferred to other nearby offices, reducing running costs for the department and allowing us to operate more efficiently. There will be no reduction in jobs.”