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Government must look at all the options before closing regional offices; Western Mail.

* UBLIC spending cuts are forcing the Welsh Government, just like every other body in the public sector, to take tough decisions. First Minister Carwyn Jones is right to have identified the main priority as protecting core services, but the loss of jobs can be devastating to a local economy when there is little prospect of them being replaced by new ones.

We support the move in recent years to move some Welsh Government jobs away from Cardiff. There is a perception among some of those who live in other parts of Wales that the National Assembly and Welsh Government are Cardiff-centric bodies that care little for the country as a whole. Reprehensibly, this ill-informed view has been encouraged by some politicians for their own advantage.

Nevertheless, the relocation of hundreds of administrative jobs to offices outside Cardiff has been a positive way of demonstrating that the Welsh Government is committed to spreading its resources around the country - even if one consequence has simply been civil servants who live in Cardiff driving to and from their new office in Merthyr Tydfil every day.

Now the Welsh Government is contemplating the closure of some of its regional offices to save money. Inevitably this will be seen as a retreat from the policy it has been proudly pursuing. It is understandable that the PCS union and opposition politicians are expressing concern. At a time when the public sector is being squeezed and there is little sign of the private sector creating well-paid jobs to make up for those lost, the closure of offices in the towns which have been named could be a serious blow.

In these circumstances, we endorse the calls for there to be full consultation with the staff and their unions. As Plaid Cymru AM Simon Thomas points out, communications in Mid Wales especially can be difficult and time-consuming. The prospect of being expected to commute from Builth Wells to Aberystwyth, for example, is not one that will be greeted with enthusiasm by any employees affected. Neither is it compatible with the Welsh Government's stated goal to reduce carbon emissions. It is important, therefore, that before any decision is made about the future of the threatened offices, a full impact assessment is carried out.

Only last week a report was published by WWF that stressed the need for the Welsh Government to embed its commitment to reduce carbon emissions in all the decisions it makes. It would be perverse if offices were closed without such an exercise having been undertaken.

Clearly money has to be saved and it may be that closing a number of its offices would help the Welsh Government safeguard essential services. But such a course of action should not be embarked upon lightly, and before alternatives have been examined.
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Title Annotation:Letters
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 4, 2011
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