This interview with Conservative MP Stewart Jackson followed the news that the Land Registry office in Peterborough has been saved from closure. It was broadcast at 07:15 on Thursday 18th March 2010 in Paul Stainton’s BBC Peterborough Breakfast Show.
PS: Three hundred city jobs have been saved. That’s the big news this morning. The Land Registry announced yesterday they’d scrapped plans to close the Peterborough office. Six months ago staff were told the office was likely to close. Alex Bone, who works at the office told BBC Radio Cambridgeshire about the moment they found out they were keeping their jobs.
AB TAPE: It was really surreal in that you’ve got three hundred people gathered there, and just the noise, the noise going on, the noise. And then our area manager came in and then there was just this deathly silence. He didn’t initially say straight away, he opened he ran through a number of things, some other things, and just thinking, just tell us please. And then he did say, right, the following offices are going to keep open. And then he announced Croydon, and you’re thinking right, OK, and then he said Peterborough, but it was a bit, a little bit drawn out, well it seemed to be, and there were a lot of happy faces obviously. Some people were actually crying with relief.
PS: Very relieved. Very happy people in Peterborough this morning. Conservative MP for Peterborough Stewart Jackson is with us. Morning Stewart.
SJ: Good morning Paul.
PS: A concerted campaign by the unions, and by your goodselves, seems to have paid dividends, yes.
SJ: Well I thought it was always very important that we didn’t have any special favours from the Government and from the Land Registry Board, but we had a good hearing, and we had fair play, and a level playing field. And it was important that we put the case. And I led two debates in the House of Commons on the issue, and I worked closely with individual staff members there, and the trade unions, to put the case for Peterborough, which was that we weren’t just another outpost of the south-east, we did have particular problems with unemployment, and an economy that was struggling, frankly. And that we needed to be treated in that respect. And also it did seem foolish that we were talking about losing three hundred top quality professional white-collar jobs, when we’ve had Indesit, we’ve had Norwich and Peterborough, the City Council, Perkins Engines, and these people have given great service to Peterborough and they just wanted a hearing. To give them their due, the Government did listen, and I’m absolutely delighted for everyone that we’ve been able to safeguard the jobs into the future.
PS: I was going to move onto that. Is this jobs saved for the long term, or the time being?
SJ: Well in the letter I received yesterday from the Chief Land Registrar, and in fact I was tipped off on Tuesday evening by a Labour Minister that it was good news, but I promised that I wouldn’t say anything until the following day, which I kept to, more or less, obviously I was delighted and wanted to tell as many people as possible, but my understanding is that for the foreseeable future Peterborough will not be reviewed, but they will look at new leasing arrangements in 2013 when the existing lease runs out. And they will be looking to move to smaller premises. But that won’t involve any job losses.
PS: Nevertheless, smaller premises infers smaller staff, doesn’t it?
SJ: Well not really. We’ve been told that they expect to keep the staff complement of three hundred, except at the moment the problem is that they’re in a building that’s too big, and it’s costing the taxpayer too much money. But there is an understanding that some capacity had to be taken out of the system. Obviously I’m sorry for my colleagues whose offices have been lost, such as Tunbridge Wells and Portsmouth, but my first instinct is obviously to bat for Peterborough, and look after my constituents. And I’ve had very many emails from people saying, I’ve got a young family, the thought of unemployment now was unbearable, and thank you for what you’ve done. But it’s not just me, the PCS Union have worked hard, and the staff members, and as I say we just wanted a fair hearing. We’ve had it, and it’s fantastic news.
PS: Were you always confident Peterborough would be saved.
SJ: Yes because I think the argument was very strong. We were not, as the original report said, it’s not as if we were part of the south-east, like a suburb of London. And other offices, such as Nottingham and Leicester, should, if they were using the points system properly for identifying closures, should have been first in the queue ahead of us. But I think they were looking at the fact, they came round to the view, that it would damage the local economy, that there was nothing inherently wrong with the professionalism and dedication of local people, and the work they were doing. And that it just didn’t stand up. there was also a very strong backlash in terms of consultation and responses. So I was always quite optimistic. I was sort of tipped the wink in the Debate I had in the House of Commons on the 3rd of March, and looking at the body language, and the language of the Minister, I was pretty hopeful from then on that it would be a good result.
PS: Well it certainly is. Thank you for that Stewart. Conservative MP for Peterborough, Stewart Jackson. Success in keeping those Land Registry jobs in Peterborough, three hundred of them.