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Update on Location Strategy

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Sue Essex, Minister for Finance, Local Government and Public Services
I am pleased to report to you the progress being made under our location strategy. The key aims of the strategy are to:

• move our functions and delivery of services closer to the citizens of Wales,
• bring together functions that fit the social and economic features of an area and provide a first stop shop for everyone, and
• achieve greater dispersal of Welsh Assembly Government offices and relieve pressures on the Cardiff Offices.

In 2002, the Assembly undertook a strategic review to identify the direction for the future organisation.  The result was the Fullerton Report which set out a number of basic findings and recommendations for organisational change.  One of the core recommendations was that the Assembly could no longer sustain having the majority of its operational functions located in and around Cardiff.

This approach is at the heart our policy set out in “Making the Connections: Delivering Better Services for Wales” published in October last year.  The underpinning principle of this is that the way forward for public services in Wales is through collaboration and co-operation, not competition.  A second big theme is putting the citizen and community centre stage.

Moving functions in this way will give good career opportunities in local areas and better reflect the diversity of the people of Wales.  It will contribute to improving the local economies of those Objective One areas at which the strategy is directed.

Good progress has been made. My colleague the Culture Minister recently opened the new CADW office at Nantgarw, which has freed up much needed space in Cathays Park.

The Merthyr Office is the next step in the implementation of the Strategy.  Work is expected to start on site very soon and occupation is planned for mid 2006.  In November last year I re-confirmed the functions that would be moving to Merthyr Tydfil as Communities Directorate, Communities Safety, Housing, WEFO, Rent Officers Service and the Voluntary Sector Unit.  About 450 posts will be moving into the new office of which 345 are being relocated from Cardiff.

Work has been on going to identify the precise functions that should be located in the new offices in North Wales at Llandudno Junction and Mid Wales in Aberystwyth offices. Decisions have now been taken on what these should be. I am conscious of time Presiding Officer therefore I will not read out the list of those functions to be transferred but this should be before members now.  The Permanent Secretary informed staff members of the posts to be transferred earlier this afternoon. It is only right that those affected should be the first to know.

In November, I announced that the main focus of the Llandudno Junction office will be those parts of education and lifelong learning and economic development and transport most closely related to the services provided by ELWa, WDA and WTB.  In addition to those functions I previously identified several other functions including the Care Standards Inspectorate for Wales, Health and Social Care and parts of Finance will also be located in Llandudno.

There will be around 525 posts will be located in the North Wales office, with room for expansion.  Around 130 of these posts will be relocated from Cardiff with scope for further posts to be relocated in the future.

The Aberystwyth office will focus on countryside and rural functions and services. In broad terms the functions that will be housed there will relate to Environment, Planning and Countryside, Cymru Ar-lein, WEFO and existing WDA posts.  The Forestry Commission based in Aberystwyth will also be moving into the new office as will the Countryside Council for Wales who are currently based in two separate offices in Aberystwyth. Full details are contained within the list before you.  

In total around 500 posts will be based in Aberystwyth, with room for expansion.  Approximately 179 of these will be relocated from Cardiff.

Both offices will house a generic element that will serve as a ‘first stop shop’ for the public.

Our approach in identifying the functions to relocate has been to improve efficiency by bringing together existing functions and services in the local area; making savings through the rationalisation of local offices; and achieving the aims I set out above by relocating posts from Cardiff.

In total around 750 posts will have moved from Cardiff to Objective One areas within the next 3 years.  The relocation of a mixture of frontline and policy functions on this scale will provide a major boost for the local economies and a good career structure for staff.  It is a big step in our plan to spread the benefits of Assembly employment more evenly throughout Wales.  It will bring the planning and delivery of Assembly Government policy and services closer to where it needs to be.

The decision to merge a number of ASPBs with the relevant departments has increased the opportunities to provide an effective service for all, from individuals, community businesses and social enterprise through to major investors.  It will contribute to our aim of providing a service that responds to the individual needs of different communities in Wales and provides accessible services, tailored to users’ needs.

Today, the Permanent Secretary issued a letter to the Trade Union outlining the details of the HR Package that would be made available to support staff.  I hope that most of the staff in the posts affected will choose to move with their work.  We will work closely with staff who decide not to move with their posts to help them secure alternative posts within the Assembly or the wider public sector.  Under a new relocation contract that will be tendered provision will be made to provide support to partners of staff relocating to either Llandudno Junction or Aberystwyth to find employment in the new location.  In addition, we will provide staff and their families with the opportunity to access a help line service, drop in centre and confidential stress and personal support.

We are managing the move in close discussion with the Trade Union and have agreed with them the approach underpinning this statement.  We are encouraging staff to contribute their views and become closely involved with delivery of all moves under the Location Strategy.

Check against delivery

Embargoed until after SUE ESSEX has delivered the statement.