17:08 Wednesday 22nd February 2012
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
CHRIS MANN: The Royal Mail have confirmed to us that they’re considering closing the Cambridge Sorting Office, where 196 people are based. They’ve begun a 6 month consultation, but the likelihood is the work will be switched to other centres, such as Peterborough, by 2014. Royal Mail have declined to appear on this programme, but have told us there will be no compulsory redundancies. .. Meanwhile in Peterborough, there is a fight to save the jobs at the DVLA. Stewart Jackson joins me now, live from our Millbank studios at Westminster. He’s the MP for Peterborough of course. Stewart, good evening.
STEWART JACKSON: Good evening Chris.
CHRIS MANN: The jobs there are threatened because the Department of Transport wants to close the DVLA. Now you’ve made a bid today to get Mike Penning. the Undersecretary of State, to change the consultation on this . Please explain to us.
STEWART JACKSON: Well my view is that although the Department of Transport have been quite flexible in already having extended the period of consultation, they included also the Christmas holiday, I think given that we’re looking at 26 jobs being lost, good quality jobs, and the very serious impact that will have on Peterborough, I’m asking him in a letter I’ve written to him today, after having attended the union reception this morning by the PCS union, to think about extending the consultation, and inviting people in the Peterborough area, both businesses and individuals, to take part in that consultation, to see if we could make a persuasive case to keep the office at Lincoln Road open.
CHRIS MANN: And what is the case to keep it open?
STEWART JACKSON: Well the case is that we are opposite the centre of a rural area in the Fens. We don’t have as good coverage, for instance in broadband, as we would like. Lots of older people, indeed, even businesses are not as up on IT as they would like. And they are comfortable with having someone to talk to in a DVLA office, and dealing with some of the key issues that they might have, and are used to over the years. We also have a lot of people from migrant communities, who don’t have the same licensing regime in their own home countries. So they need some extra help. And essentially, my view is that not enough thought has been given to the impact. There is in my opinion a chance that there’ll be weaker enforcement of the vehicle licensing. Obviously service levels will go down if they close this office. And we’re going to lose 26 jobs. So for all those reasons, and the fact that I believe there’s been inadequate consultation, I’m asking the Minister to think again. I’m not saying that the overall decision for the DVLA is wrong,. But I am saying Peterborough has specific circumstances, and please think again, or at least give us extra time in terms of consultation, so we can put our case in a more coherent way.
CHRIS MANN: It does seem that wherever you look, whether it’s in the Fire Service, the Police Service, County Councils, District Councils, or here as we hear at the Post Office and the DVLA, it’s admin jobs everywhere that have got the axe hanging over them.
STEWART JACKSON: Well the DVLA will make the case, if I’m to be devil’s advocate, and step aside from my number one priority, which is to defend jobs in my own constituency, they will say that technological change means that it’s much easier now to go through this administrative process using computer systems, using the internet, and that the high level of administrative support that was previously needed, is no longer needed. And there is merit in that. And I think across the whole of the Government estate, across all manner of departments, that is certainly the case.
CHRIS MANN: And we just have to accept that. That’s a fact of modern ..
STEWART JACKSON: Well I think given over the last fifteen years we’ve seen a significant increase in public sector jobs, and not as big an increase in private sector jobs, there is always going to be some need to rebalance, given the deficit situation we have, and the very difficult financial position the Government’s in. But I think it should be evidence based, and it should take into account the unique local circumstances. And that’s why I’m saying to the Minister, look again and extend the consultation, and look again at what our circumstances in Peterborough are.
CHRIS MANN: What do you think of the Royal Mail’s plans, or proposals. to close the Cambridge Sorting Office,possibly put some of the jobs to Peterborough, but again, Cambridge will be left without a sorting office.
STEWART JACKSON: Well I’m surprised by that decision, I have to say. I’m obviously delighted that the future viability of Peterborough seems to have been secured, because if more work comes there, it’s good for my constituents, and the local economy. I would expect that the Member of Parliament for Cambridge will fight very hard to put the case, on behalf of his constituents, that this will have a significant impact, almost 200 jobs. But if it does happen, then obviously Cambridge’s loss is Peterborough’s gain. And I hope that it keeps within Cambridgeshire, and doesn’t move anywhere else.
CHRIS MANN: Stewart Jackson, thank you for joining me. The MP for Peterborough. live there from our Millbank studio at Westminster.