THE leader of Newport council yesterday made a last-ditch appeal to save the passport office in a letter to the woman who will decide its fate.
In the council’s final formal response to the closure consultation, which finishes tomorrow, Matthew Evans warned the chief executive of the Identity and Passport Service, Sarah Rapson, staff may not be able to find equally well-paid jobs.
Tomorrow marks the culmination of months of efforts to save the passport office, backed by an Argus campaign, and Cllr Evans' letter damns a UK government economic impact study into the closure “overall weak” and “poorly conceived” and said the council was particularly disappointed the report excluded the impact on other Newport businesses.
He added: “We would also like to express our extreme dismay at the late delivery of the report which gives us little time to fully scrutinize, in depth, the rationale behind the decision to close or downsize the facility.
“We urge you to reconsider the decision on the Newport office as any job losses will not only further hamper Newport’s regeneration prospects but the high quality staff IPS have heavily invested in over the years will see their skills and expertise go to waste,” he said.
The letter said the council would be delighted to work with Ms Rapson to find alternatives to job cuts.
Meanwhile, Newport East MP Jessica Morden quizzed a government minister over a claim in the impact study that £3 million in redundancy pay “may create a short term boost in trade for the local economy.”
During Welsh questions at the House of Common, she asked Welsh office junior minister David Jones: “Is this the Government’s new alternative growth strategy?”
He replied: “The line to which the honourable lady refers is in every economic impact assessment that has been prepared in connection with the current process.”
A spokesman for IPS said the impact assessment sets out the impact of job losses in each of the five regional centres and does not alter the business case for the proposed closure of the centre at Newport.
He added: "No final decision has been made and we want to consider input from all interested parties before we do so."
EDITORIAL COMMENT: Last stand in passport fight
TOMORROW is the last day of consultation in the battle to save Newport's Passport Office.
The Identity and Passport Service is giving every indication that it cares little for the attempts of any of us, including MPs, unions, council and the South Wales Argus who have tried desperately to prevent closure.
With enormous insensitivity the IPS has actually suggested that axing 250 jobs would create a short term benefit for Newport due to the estimated £3m of redundancy money that would supposedly burn a hole in the pockets of the newly jobless.
What a crass thing to say!
The economic impact of throwing 250 people out of their jobs in a city that has already lost so much employment will cause great suffering.
Even at this late stage we urge Mr Cameron's government to think again and give all 300 staff a reprieve. Newport and Wales deserve to have not just a front counter service but a proper passport processing centre as at present.
We have maintained all along that cuts here will be far more damaging than in, say, London.
We hope that the last minute appeals by the Newport council leader and others will bring about a change of mind within the IPS and/or the Home Office.
But we won't hold our breath.