Department of Education confirms closure of half of its offices

Tim Lezard

GoveEducation secretary Michael Gove’s civil servants will walk out on strike again next week, the PCS has announced as his department confirms the closure of half of its offices.

Staff were told yesterday that six of the Department for Education’s 12 offices in England will be shut, putting around 500 jobs at risk.

This includes Runcorn, the cheapest to run of all the DfE’s sites, where low-paid staff will be forced to move or commute to Manchester to work in a building that is due to be demolished.

The union’s 1,800 members, who in March held a two-hour strike against the plans, will walk out again from 3pm to 5pm next Wednesday (1 May).

This comes as the union is engaged in a three-month campaign of industrial action and protests across the civil service over imposed cuts to pay, pensions and working conditions.

The DfE closures follow a review involving global management consultancy Bain and Company, which recommended cuts deeper even than those demanded by chancellor George Osborne.

The union believes Gove, who has faced criticism from MPs for how he and his advisers are running the department, is using the DfE as an ideological test-bed for wider civil service cuts.

Reports today show contracted staff brought in by Gove to persuade schools to become academies are being paid up to £1,000 a day through companies that allow them to minimise their tax bills, despite this practice causing a public outcry last year and being condemned by the prime minister.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Ministers are ignoring all reasoned argument and pressing ahead with cuts and closures that are clearly purely political.

“As it slashes half of its budget and plans to cut a quarter of staff, the DfE is yet to say what it will not do in future and we fear vital public services, such as ensuring children are safe at school and supporting special educational needs, will be put at risk.”

 


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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