South East Wales

Newport passport office to retain 150 jobs

Newport's Passport Office will continue as a customer support centre, but no longer process passport applications, the Home Office has confirmed.

It says 150 of 300 posts will remain, "significantly" more than proposed.

The office provides passport facilities to all of Wales and much of south and south west England.

But First Minister Carwyn Jones said it was extremely disappointing that Wales would be the UK's only area without a "fully-fledged passport office".

MPs had warned that closing it would have a significant economic impact.

Mr Jones said: "The Newport Passport Office is also a significant employer in Newport, and the loss of these valuable jobs will have a huge impact on the city and the local economy.

"We will now do all we can to support the staff and help them find new jobs or retrain."

Home Office Minister Damian Green said: "We have always been committed to retaining a passport office to serve the people of Wales and, after listening hard to what people have told us, we will retain 150 posts at Newport, significantly more than originally proposed.

"I appreciate this will be a difficult time for staff in our Newport office, but we have sought to reduce the impact of these difficult decisions... whilst making the savings and efficiencies we need to see across the business.

"The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) will continue to work closely with other government departments, the local authorities and other agencies to find alternative opportunities and provide support to those people affected."

The Newport office will continue to provide a customer centre serving south Wales. It will now also provide services for the IPS regional network.

Image caption Staff are due to be told about the Newport office's future on Monday

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan said the announcement showed the UK government had "listened and responded to the concerns of local people".

"Since the Identity and Passport Service announcement last October, the Wales Office have worked closely in partnership with the IPS to secure as many jobs as possible at Newport," she said.

"Today's announcement by Immigration Minister Damian Green means in addition to the 50 jobs secured for the customer service centre last October, a further 100 jobs will be located at Newport to provide customer services across the IPS network."

Newport West MP Paul Flynn said there would be relief at the announcement. Writing on Twitter, he said: "Still more than 100 jobs going but the brilliant campaign has saved many jobs".

Cllr Matthew Evans, leader of Newport City Council said the original decision was "nonsensical" but there were still mixed feelings by the latest announcement.

"We sympathise with those who are affected by this morning's decision and are disappointed that IPS did not decide to keep Newport's Passport Office fully open and want assurances that everything possible will be done for those affected," he said.

"However, we welcome the news that 150 jobs will be retained in the city."

A committee of MPs had criticised the passport office plans, warning of a "significant" economic impact.

The UK government first announced plans to close the centre last October as part of an efficiency drive.

In March the Welsh Affairs Committee urged it to re-examine the criteria on which the decision was based.

The MPs said they were not convinced savings to the taxpayer would be achieved.

Protesters gathered outside the office on Monday to voice their opposition to plans.

An Identity and Passport Service notice at the site said it was "currently closed to hold an important staff meeting".

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