Prime minister backs bid to save Norfolk jobs at CITB

Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London.

Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The prime minister has backed a campaign to save hundreds of Norfolk jobs.

Speaking in parliament, Theresa May offered her support to the campaign being spearheaded by MP Sir Henry Bellingham to pressure the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) not to move out of Bircham Newton.

Some 575 staff work at the headquarters based on the former RAF base but the body is considering streamlining the work it does and believes a move out of Norfolk makes economic sense.

Sir Henry has called the move 'a mistake' and he has now won the backing of Mrs May. In the House of Commons she praised Sir Henry, adding: 'He has been a great supporter of the CITB at Bircham and I am very happy to support his campaign.'

Sir Henry said: 'This is really good news. This is going to be a tough campaign but I think there is a really good chance of persuading them to keep the headquarters in Bircham because the arguments for them staying there are just so strong – they own the building, they have all the people there now they are going to be down-sizing it anyway so moving to a rented building in Peterborough just makes no sense.

'It is fantastic that the prime minister has backed the campaign. It is exceptional that she has lent her support. She knows about the CITB and she is sticking her neck out a bit. This is a very big step forward.

'What the CITB leadership have neglected is they have regarded this as a business decision – they have just looked at the economics of it (which I don't think stack up) but completely ignored the politics. They are not a government-run body but they are a government-regulated body. They have overlooked the political context of this.

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'The campaign is going ahead flat-out. The next stage is for me to meet with the chairman and chief executive and I am putting together a task force – we will keep the pressure up non-stop and I hope they announce the move to Peterborough is off.'

The CITB revealed its Vision 2020: The Future CITB report last month saying it wants to become 'a simpler, more streamlined organisation'.

To do that, it wants to move its head office from Bircham Newton to Peterborough, and will stop delivering training at the National Construction College.