Budget pressures prompt HSE to close offices
Faced with a 35-per-cent government-funding squeeze, the HSE has decided to close two of its offices in the North West of England.
The Executive’s plans to close its Preston and Manchester sites, which are approaching their lease-break periods in the next year or so, will affect 58 and 100 staff, respectively. In both offices there is a mix of visiting staff, inspectors and visiting officers, and office-based administrative personnel. The posts will transfer to the HSE’s headquarters in Bootle, Merseyside.
According to an HSE spokesperson, the office closures, which are not expected before June, are seen as the best way to protect its existing headcount and should not adversely affect its front-line contact with business. It also expects to save around £5.3m over 10 years by consolidating its estate in the region.
The spokesperson explained: “Like every part of government, HSE is looking for ways of improving the efficiency of our organisation and delivering value for money to the taxpayer without undermining front-line services. This decision will allow us to reduce the amount of buildings we use without cutting jobs, or reducing the service we provide to the North West.”
However, the PCS union claims that 20 per cent of staff will opt against a move and look to leave the organisation.
Paula Brown, PCS national executive member and chair of the union’s HSE branch, said: “HSE’s own study showed that at least one in five staff will seek to leave following the move to Bootle, with the figure rising to more than half of lower-paid staff. The loss of skills and local knowledge will take years to replace.”
The union also believes that any savings the move yields will be wiped out by a rise in days lost to injury and illness in the wider regional economy. It plans to meet HSE management early this month to argue against the closures.
PCS negotiations officer Jayson Sloss said: “An alternative proposal to retain downsized offices in Preston and Manchester is far more preferable. It would maintain quality health and safety provision while still offering savings to HSE, and it is disappointing that HSE rejected this possibility.”
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