‘Open jobs at ONS could mean fewer chances for Wales’

Western Mail - - NEWS - MARTIN SHIP­TON Chief re­porter martin.ship­ton@waleson­line.co.uk

EM­PLOY­EES of the Of­fice for Na­tional Sta­tis­tics (ONS) in New­port are con­cerned that plans to open up jobs to peo­ple liv­ing any­where in the UK could lead to a de­crease in the pro­por­tion of its work­force liv­ing in Wales.

At present, more than 2,000 work­ers are em­ployed by the ONS at its of­fice on the out­skirts of our third largest city, New­port.

The head­quar­ters of the ONS was moved from Lon­don to New­port in 1996 fol­low­ing a UK Gov­ern­ment re­view that called for the de­cen­tral­i­sa­tion of pub­lic-sec­tor jobs.

Now, how­ever, ev­i­dence has emerged of a pol­icy to en­able some fu­ture job-hold­ers to work from home and live any­where in the UK.

One lead­er­ship role in the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s dig­i­tal and tech­nol­ogy team is cur­rently be­ing ad­ver­tised with a salary of £70,000.

Against “Lo­ca­tion” on the Civil Ser­vice In­tranet, the ad­ver­tise­ment states: “Re­mote (any­where in the UK).”

Two fur­ther posts with home work­ing as an op­tion for head an­a­lysts have been ad­ver­tised with salaries of £57,721 or £60,775 in Lon­don.

Those ap­pointed would be ex­pected to at­tend an ONS site at Fare­ham in Hamp­shire, Lon­don or New­port on an ad hoc ba­sis if they chose to work from home.

An ONS worker in New­port, who did not wish to be iden­ti­fied, said: “This is a wor­ry­ing trend and if it car­ries on could greatly re­duce job op­por­tu­ni­ties for peo­ple liv­ing in

Wales.

“The whole pur­pose of mov­ing the ONS’ head­quar­ters to New­port was to share em­ploy­ment pos­si­bil­i­ties around.

“We know there is go­ing to be a trend to­wards more home work­ing, but it’s surely wrong to open up jobs that were meant for Wales to peo­ple liv­ing any­where in the UK.”

Dar­ren Wil­liams, who heads the PCS pub­lic-sec­tor union in Wales, said: “We would cer­tainly be con­cerned to see any shift away from the prin­ci­ple of lo­cat­ing good-qual­ity pub­lic-sec­tor jobs in Wales.

“There is not cur­rently any sug­ges­tion, how­ever, that New­port might cease to be the lo­ca­tion for the ONS’ head­quar­ters, em­ploy­ing more than 2,000 staff in the city.”

A spokes­woman for the Of­fice for Na­tional Sta­tis­tics said: “We have well over 2,000 peo­ple based in Wales and there are no plans to move any of those jobs.

“The data pro­vided by the ONS is cen­tral to the UK’s re­sponse to the cur­rent pan­demic. Our peo­ple have per­formed bril­liantly dur­ing this pe­riod and we are re­ceiv­ing ad­di­tional re­sources to pro­vide more data on crit­i­cal is­sues.

“This means we have greater de­mand for al­ready highly soughtafte­r skills, es­pe­cially those around data han­dling and anal­y­sis.

“While we re­main wholly com­mit­ted to de­vel­op­ing these skills among our New­port-based work­force, we are al­low­ing flex­i­bil­ity of lo­ca­tion in some cases to be able to at­tract more of the skills we need, in­clud­ing to New­port, so we can con­tinue pro­vid­ing vi­tal in­for­ma­tion for the whole of the UK.”

The spokes­woman added: “The pol­icy of mov­ing jobs from Lon­don was com­pleted some years ago when many key ONS func­tions moved to New­port. We only have around 100 peo­ple in Lon­don now.”

The de­ci­sion to move the HQ of ONS to New­port fol­lowed a re­view car­ried out by Sir Michael Lyons, then of Birm­ing­ham Univer­sity, who con­cluded that too many pub­lic-sec­tor or­gan­i­sa­tions were based in Lon­don or the south east of Eng­land.

A num­ber of other bod­ies moved to Wales, in­clud­ing the Patent Of­fice to New­port and the Driver and Ve­hi­cle Li­cens­ing Agency (DVLA) to Swansea.

Many politi­cians con­tinue to ar­gue that there re­mains scope to move more or­gan­i­sa­tions out of Lon­don and any move to re­v­erse that trend would face bit­ter op­po­si­tion.

> The Of­fice for Na­tional Sta­tis­tics in New­port

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