THE study into the economic impact of closing the Newport Passport Office does not make a robust case for closure and is technically deficient, says Assembly First Minister Carwyn Jones.
Mr Jones' stinging criticism of the economic impact assessment by the Identity and Passport Service is contained in a letter to Home Office immigration minister Damian Green MP, which also calls for an urgent meeting to discuss the Welsh Assembly Government's (WAG) concerns.
Mr Jones states that a number of issues raised by WAG have not been addressed, and adds: "We have also identified a number of deficiencies in the technical quality of the economic impact assessment which do not provide the reassurance I was hoping for in terms of demonstrating proper consideration of the closure proposals."
Mr Jones said concerns remain that the "performance, skills and commitment of the workforce" have not been taken into account and that Welsh language requirements have not been fully appreciated.
"I am not satisfied that the case for the closure of the Newport office has been robustly made, or that the strong case we and our partners have made for the retention of the office has been acknowledged," he concludes, asking for a meeting to discuss WAG concerns in more detail before a final decision is made.
The economic impact assessment was issued less than a week before the formal consultation period into the proposed closure ended on March 18.
The study has been condemned for describing the economic impact of closure on the city as "small", and for claiming that the proposed £3 million in redundancy payments may create a short term boost in trade.
Closure proposals, announced last October, have been fiercely fought by office staff, unions, Newport city council, Newport Unlimited, city traders, and more than 20,000 individuals through an Argus campaign and petition.