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Department for Work and Pensions: Office Support Services

Volume 685: debated on Monday 9 October 2006

My honourable friend the Minister of State for Pensions Reform (James Purnell) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

After completing a detailed commercial and tendering exercise, I wish to announce that Haden Building Management is to be awarded a seven-year contract for the delivery of a suite of office services to the Department for Work and Pensions.

In January 2005, following a wide-ranging review of support services, senior officials in my department, with the support of Ministers, concluded that bids for the future provision of all our office support services should be invited from specialist external suppliers in the private sector. Inviting bids for a single national contract for the supply of office services from the private sector would allow us to harness the benefits afforded by new technology, organisational efficiencies and the agility to respond to our changing needs as the department is modernised and reformed.

These office support services, which include post opening and despatch, messengerial work, switchboard operations, typing and secretarial services, are currently delivered through a range of external suppliers and in-house teams as well as forming part of the tasks of staff who serve the public directly. These arrangements have served us well in the past but the review concluded that these methods of delivery no longer provided best value for money and that, in their current state, would not provide the best service in the future.

Since the review, officials have been undertaking a competitive tendering exercise, in accordance with EU procurement rules, to select a supplier who can provide the services we require and offer best value for money. Following a rigorous evaluation of bids, the contract has been awarded to Haden Building Management with the new supply arrangements expected to commence on 1 March 2007.

This decision will mean that some jobs currently undertaken by DWP staff and our existing external providers will transfer to the new supplier. In total around 700 DWP staff nationally may transfer. Greatest numbers of DWP staff affected are based in Scotland, Wales and north-west England with other smaller groups in London and the north-east. We recognise that some staff may not wish to transfer and for these we will, where possible, offer the opportunity to redeploy within DWP or other government departments although we cannot guarantee this. Given the general unavailability of suitable alternative posts, however, the likelihood is that many staff engaged in support services will transfer to the new contractor under the protection of TUPE.

Proposals put forward by Haden provide more efficient ways of working and take account of the departmental modernisation programme. This is likely to result in a reduction of staff required to deliver office service contract arrangements over a period of time.

Officials have been meeting with trade unions and keeping staff affected by these changes informed of progress on an ongoing basis. Over the coming months they will continue to consult with trade unions and work with managers and HR advisors on all matters relating to the transfer of staff.

I will keep Members with significant numbers of affected constituents updated on our progress over the next few months. I am confident that these plans, for the future delivery of office services, will help support our overall goal of moving to a leaner and fitter organisation delivering world-class services to our customers.