Time for long-term commitment to ONS, and end to mixed messages

I welcome the announcement that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) will remain in Newport, but we need a further commitment from the UK Government on Newport’s long-term future as a host city for civil service jobs.

I warmly welcome the news that the ONS will be remaining in Newport, and that new relations will be forged between the agency and the likes of Alacrity and National Software Academy. These companies have both benefitted from important support from the Welsh Government, and have contributed massively towards Newport’s reputation as a focal point for digital innovation in Wales. It’s great that their expertise will now feed through to one of Wales’ largest public sector employers in the ONS.

The Labour Government’s decision to bring ONS jobs to Newport in 2007 has had a hugely positive impact, and ONS employees in the city are continuing to produce high quality economic statistics.

Whilst the latest UK Government’s announcement on the ONS is positive, Ministers have done little to quell months of uncertainty with their disrespectful mixed messages on Newport’s capability as a home for civil service jobs. In 2015, the UK Government launched a review into how official statistics are collated, sparking fears of jobs moving away from Newport. In November, local PCS union representative Gez Kirby spoke of how the review had caused ‘anxiety’ among the workforce. Further to this, Sir Charlie Bean – who led the recent review into the ONS – has criticised the agency as ‘underperforming’ since it moved here, while just last month the Conservative chair of the Treasury Select Committee, Andrew Tyrie MP, spoke of ‘rubbish in, rubbish out’ statistics being produced in Newport. The sudden change of tune from the UK Government is of course welcome, but warm words can only go so far.

Workers and the general public will remain sceptical about the UK Government’s stance until we get a more formal, long-term commitment to civil service jobs for Newport.