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Pimlico? ... Give me Newport.

Here we go again. More moans from London about a move of jobs to Newport.

A Lib Dem peer has claimed that making Newport the headquarters of the Office of National Statistics will not work because key London staff do not want to move.

When a vote was taken among Patent Office  staff in 1988, only about 3% favoured Newport over Norwich. The subsequent relocation here in 1991 has been quoted an a model of a successful happy move. Of course senior staff are reluctant to uproot their families but they will find great advantages in life in Newport compared to expensive overcrowded Pimlico.

It is travesty to suggest that  the Newport site is unattractive.  Tredegar Park is an agreeable parkland setting. Proximity to good roads is a better prospect that commuting for hours into Central London. Those who sell their homes in the South East of England can buy superior homes here in healthier surroundings. Unlike Pimlico, we have no ‘sink’ schools.

If key staff refuse to budge, it’s a challenge to recruit locally. That challenge has been met and overcome before and will be again.

Relocation to Newport is not a novelty. It has worked brilliantly for many thousands of families from the South East of England in the Patent Office, Statistics Office and Passport Service. It’s a similar story for Companies House in Cardiff. London staff should believe the reality not the myths.

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Below is an article which appeared in yesterdays Telegraph

ONS revolt may delay relocation to Wales


By Edmund Conway Economics Editor

Last Updated: 3:06am BST 14/05/2007

The Office for National Statistics may delay the transfer of hundreds of its staff to Wales amid concerns that the troubled department is facing a full-scale revolt from its senior Whitehall officials. Insiders have warned that the department is in crisis, with nine out of 10 executives claiming the ONS is badly managed.

National statistician Karen Dunnell has indicated to staff that the department is prepared to push back the deadline for relocation if important statistics come under threat. It follows a warning from the Bank of England that the relocation poses a serious risk to the quality of key economic data.

The senior civil servants' union, the First Division Association (FDA), has warned Parliament that the changes are putting the ONS's ability to produce world-class statistics at risk. In a further blow, it also claims that the modernisation programme started by the previous director, Sir Len Cook, had "affected adversely both efficiency and quality" of statistics.

The criticism is highly damaging to the beleaguered department and will send ripples of concern through the City, where official statistics are of vital importance to financial institutions.

In papers passed to the Treasury select committee, the union says: "The FDA believes that the ONS is at crisis point. The cumulative impact of the need to deliver efficiency savings, the requirement to relocate many key areas of work away from London and poor management of people and processes is putting the future delivery of ONS's outputs at risk.

"Staff morale at all levels, including the [senior civil service] is at an all time low."

Only 11pc of senior civil servants think the ONS is well-managed as a whole, or that change at the department was well-managed, according to an internal survey.

At the heart of the row are plans to move those responsible for the National Accounts away from the ONS's Pimlico headquarters. Many of these statisticians had, until a shock announcement this year, considered themselves exempt from the changes, which form part of Gordon Brown's government-wide cost-cutting plans.

The ONS has about 600 staff in London and more than 1,200 in Newport. Despite earlier pledging to maintain a smaller London office in Islington, it recently said all statistical activity would move to Newport by 2010.

The relocation is part of the department's plan to save £75m, although it has had to set aside £1m for a retention fund to try to hold on to key members of staff.

A spokesman said: "These changes are under constant review and we will if necessary adjust the pace of relocation to minimise the risk to key statistical outputs.

"We recognise that relocating and modernising systems is a challenge, which brings uncertainty for staff at all levels. But management is all about minimising risk." By Edmund Conway Economics Editor