Wales politics

Union warns Welsh government offices could be closed

An assembly government office
Image caption The Welsh Goverrnment said it was committed to a 'dispersed presence across Wales'

A union has raised concerns about the possible closure of Welsh Government offices.

Ministers are understood to be looking at proposals to move staff from smaller sites around the country to bigger offices.

The government has opened regional offices in Llandudno Junction, Aberystwyth and Merthyr Tydfil in recent years.

The Welsh Government said it was reviewing its "location needs".

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) said it did not disagree with the principle of moving staff to larger sites.

But it warned there could be a threat of redundancies if offices in Llandrindod Wells and Newtown, Powys, closed because of the distance to the Welsh Government offices in Aberystwyth.

There are 117 staff at Llandrindod Wells and 83 at Newtown.

Closing an office in Caernarfon, where there are 92 staff, could also harm the local economy, the PCS added.

PCS Wales secretary Peter Harris said the union had a mandate for industrial action after members voted in favour of striking over pensions, pay and job cuts.

He said: "Clearly if there are people who are made redundant from this exercise against their wishes I think that would trigger industrial action unfortunately."

He said he had seen a report prepared for the Cabinet which lists offices that do not have a long-term future.

"My concern is that offices such as Caernarfon, Newtown and Llandrindod Wells they haven't got a long-term future according to the report," he said.

"But decisions haven't been taken by the minister yet so hopefully they can remain open."

'Spread out'

Mr Harris said staff were uncertain about the future of their jobs.

The union was opposed to job losses and enforced transfers, he said.

"What I want is clarity. People need to know actually what the plans are," he said.

The offices in Llandudno Junction, Aberystwyth and Merthyr Tydfil were built as part of an attempt to spread civil service jobs across Wales.

A spokesman for the Welsh Governemnt, which employs about 5,800 people around Wales, said: "We remain committed to providing a dispersed presence across Wales, but we are currently reviewing our location needs."

Plaid Cymru AM Elin Jones, rural affairs minister in the previous coalition government, said Labour should guarantee it would not move staff from towns such as Llandrindod Wells, Newtown and Caernarfon to bigger regional offices.

"We are calling on the government to commit to the long-term future of these smaller offices around Wales because they are so essential for the economies of those areas," she said.

'Vital'

"Decentralisation of jobs is key, and the jobs in government buildings should be spread out from the centre, rather than centralised on a regional basis - taking jobs away from smaller towns."

Plaid said spare capacity in the larger offices, such as Llandudno Junction, should be filled by moving jobs and departments from the Welsh Government's central Cardiff headquarters.

Acting Conservative leader in the assembly, Paul Davies AM said the perception of a 'Cardiff bubble' was all too often apparent in regions away from the capital.

"It is important that any Welsh Labour Government review of office locations is conducted in an open and transparent manner, with careful consideration given to staff and the work they are undertaking," he said.

William Powell, Liberal Democrat AM for mid and west Wales, said: "It is vital that whatever decisions are made, the government continues to ensure that there is a presence across the whole of Wales, including in rural areas like Powys and Carmarthenshire."

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