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