Debate at Westminster Hall hoped to shine ‘powerful spotlight’ on plans to close CITB’s Norfolk head office

PUBLISHED: 11:27 17 July 2018 | UPDATED: 11:27 17 July 2018

An aerial view of the National Construction College at Bircham Newton, operated by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB). Picture: Stephen Shepherd/CITB.

An aerial view of the National Construction College at Bircham Newton, operated by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB). Picture: Stephen Shepherd/CITB.

© Stephen Shepherd

One of the country’s largest unions is today welcoming a Parliamentary debate which aims to shine a spotlight on plans to close a training board’s Norfolk head office.

CITB  (Construction Industry Training Board) 2003. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARYCITB (Construction Industry Training Board) 2003. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) announced proposals earlier this month to close its head office in Bircham Newton, near Fakenham, in favour of a new base in Peterborough.

Relocating could see up to 136 staff lose their jobs.

The union Unite said it welcomed the debate, which takes place at Westminster Hall today, July 17.

Unite regional coordinating officer Mark Robinson said: “We hope today’s Westminster Hall debate throws a powerful spotlight on the shameful plan to close the Construction Industry Training Board’s HQ at Bircham Newton in Norfolk for no sound economic reason.

“Up to 136 jobs of hardworking staff are on the line which will be a severe blow for the local Norfolk economy which can’t afford to lose such skilled jobs.

“This is a betrayal that will fragment training and cause problems for the UK’s construction training programme at a challenging economic time with Brexit looming.

“The rationale seems to be based on unblinking dogma by an uncaring management and not on financial common sense.

“This proposal should be stopped for mature reconsideration.”

Mr Robinson added that at Unite’s meeting with the board on July 3 it was made clear that there was no realistic intention of considering any staff proposal of keeping its head office functions at Bircham Newton or indeed anywhere in Norfolk as it fails to meet one of its key criteria of “being in a central location”.

It is understood that the CITB bosses are considering a yet-to-be identified site in Peterborough as the preferred option.

Unite is now preparing a document highlighting the view that the staff representatives do not consider this consultation as being “meaningful” before the next meeting with the CITB in London on Monday July 23.

The CITB has already said that it will no longer directly provide its unique construction courses and will seek to outsource this work. If no private provider is found, the training could close.

Today’s debate had been initiated by North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham.

Education minister Ann Milton has conceded that the CITB’s plans “will be a significant challenge”.

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