‘A thoroughly cowardly decision’ – MP hits out as CITB confirms it will move headquarters to Peterborough
PUBLISHED: 17:34 04 July 2018 | UPDATED: 17:44 04 July 2018
Flickering hopes for the future of a nationwide training body in West Norfolk have been dashed after the organisation confirmed it would move its head office out of the county – a decision branded “thoroughly cowardly” by an MP.
The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) announced in November that it wanted to move its headquarters out of Bircham Newton as part of a restructuring plan, and said yesterday it was now looking for new premises in Peterborough.
It hopes to sign a lease by the end of the year and to have completed the move by January 2020.
North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham branded the move “a thoroughly cowardly decision”, and said it contradicted assurances he had been given that no decision would be made before the autumn.
“Moving away from Bircham at this stage will be extremely costly, highly disruptive and will completely remove senior CITB management from Bircham just at the time when they need to be on hand to oversee the relationship with the new training provider; and drive forward the master plan for this site,” said Sir Henry.
“If they move everyone to Peterborough there is absolutely no way they are going to be able to play a constructive and dynamic role in sorting out Bircham’s future.”
There are currently 575 people employed at the Bircham Newton site, which is also home to a construction training centre.
CITB chief executive Sarah Beale said it was a “necessary step” for the organisation and that the executive team had the full support of the board, including new chairman Peter Lauener, in its decision.
Peterborough was chosen for the new HQ as it offered the “greatest potential to reduce redundancies” and hold on to “talented colleagues”, she said.
Mr Lauener added: “Sarah Beale and I are committed to doing everything we can to maximise the development of the CITB’s site in Bircham Newton and thereby leave a lasting legacy for the local community and the economy of north Norfolk.”
The CITB’s decision to restructure followed calls from the government and construction industry for reform. Its intention to cut as many as 800 jobs in a process to “streamline” its operations was revealed in its 2018 to 2021 business plan in April.
It said it was consulting with unions and employees to mitigate the impact of the changes.
• MP hits out at decision
Sir Henry Bellingham said: “This is actually a thoroughly cowardly decision by an organisation that is fast losing the trust and confidence of its staff and local residents. After all, it was only last week that I received a very large petition signed by over 2,000 employees and local residents.
“What the CITB seem to completely forget is that they raise their money through a statutory levy approved by parliament and this obviously means that it cannot just go around behaving like a private sector organisation that can ignore local MPs, local councils and the local LEP.
“This is why I am now calling on the CITB to abandon the daft idea of moving to Peterborough as their only specific alternative; to go on genuinely consulting on staying at Bircham in line with what we were originally promised.”