Up to 45 Newport passport office jobs 'saved'

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Forty-five of 300 planned job losses at the passport office in Newport are to be saved, says the Welsh secretary.

Cheryl Gillan spoke after negotiations with Home Office minister Damian Green and Sarah Rapson, head of the Identity and Passport Service (IPS).

Mrs Gillan said she had received a commitment from the IPS that a new office would be opened in Newport.

Unions said the bulk of the work currently done in Newport would still be lost.

"People in Wales will continue to have access to a passport office in Newport," said Mrs Gillan.

After the meeting at Gwydyr House, London, she added: "In a tough but productive meeting, I have received a commitment from the IPS that a new customer-facing office will be opened in Newport, safeguarding up to 45 jobs and serving up to 47,000 people a year."

She said she also received assurances that the agency would do all it could to avoid the prospect of compulsory redundancies in the event of the closure of the Newport office.

"It means people in Wales will continue to have access to a passport office in Newport and receive the same standard of service they do now, including emergency same day processing," she said.

"This is exactly in line with the service available in Scotland."

She added that management would be keeping her fully briefed and updated throughout the 90-day period of consultation, which starts next week.

The Public and Commercial Services Union said in a statement: "It is completely disingenuous for Cheryl Gillan to claim that she has 'secured a future for the passport office in Newport', as her press release claims today.

"She is simply talking about a public counter service that would employ 'up to 45 staff'.

"This means that the bulk of the work currently done in Newport, involving the processing of passport applications, the printing of emergency passports, and a range of other functions such as fraud investigation and a customer helpline, would still be lost."

The union said the IPS chief executive, Sarah Rapson, had already told staff on Monday that a counter service would be maintained in Wales.

'Massive public support'

"This announcement means that 255 jobs will be lost, rather than 300," the union said.

"This is still a massive blow to the economy of Newport and south Wales, at a time when cutbacks elsewhere in the public and the private sector mean that it is hard to see how these losses could be absorbed.

"We are sceptical that this could be achieved without compulsory redundancies, as Gillan suggests."

The union said a march and rally would take place in Newport city centre on Saturday to "demonstrate the massive public support for defending these vital jobs and public services".

John Griffiths, Labour AM for Newport East, said: "This is an extraordinary statement from Cheryl Gillan.

"Only this weekend she was saying that she would fight for every single job in Wales, whether it be in the public or the private sector, and yet today she is describing 255 job losses as some kind of victory."

Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales East, Jocelyn Davies AM, said: "The secretary of state should clarify whether this news means that she has signed away the rest of the 300 jobs that her government plan to cut from the passport office in Newport.

"As well as the hardship this will mean for hundreds of families, it will deal a huge blow to the local economy."

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