Hundreds of West Norfolk jobs could be at risk after plans to move organisation’s head office

National Construction College at Bircham Newton
National Construction College at Bircham Newton

Hundreds of West Norfolk jobs could be at risk after proposals to restructure the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) were revealed today.

CITB announced it is considering moving its head office from Bircham Newton to Peterborough as part of its Vision 2020: The Future CITB strategy for the next three years.

North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham said the proposals are “ill-thought-out, very poorly costed and take little or no account of the CITB’s historic role and position in our community.”

Sir Henry went on to describe the facilities at Bircham Newton at “world-class”.

“It is absolutely essential that the CITB work with new potential providers to ensure that they keep existing training staff at Bircham,” he added.

“Secondly, it is a gross insult to King’s Lynn and West Norfolk for CITB leadership to suggest that the HQ could be moved to Peterborough on the grounds that Lynn lacks the necessary specialist skills.

“If Lynn is good enough for world class companies like Mars Foods, Bespak, Palm Paper and our growing cluster of specialist engineering companies, it is quite ridiculous for the CITB to complain that they cannot find the right skill levels.”

North West Norfolk Labour party secretary Jo Rust has called on Sir Henry to “take action” over the proposals.

She said: “From our perspective this is further evidence that what our local Conservative MP says about well-paid jobs and the security of our economy is not holding up.

“These are jobs that people are pleased to have, and decent ones.

“If we are to lose them here, our local economy and skill base will shrink. It is something I would want to see him take up.”

It comes after CITB was given one “last chance” to improve by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) in September.

While CITB representatives have insisted changes are necessary, industry officials have described the plans as a “hammer blow” for Norfolk and the construction industry.

Unite, a union representing the UK’s construction industry, expressed anger following the organisation’s announcement.

Unite national officer for construction Jerry Swain said: “Thousands of construction workers owe their careers and their livelihoods to the unique training they have received at Bircham Newton.

“There are grave doubts if any private provider could or would provide the same level of training at the same cost, which is currently provided at this unique facility.

“It appears that the ‘reforms’ being proposed by the CITB are all about increasing profits for individuals and companies and not what is in the best interests of the construction industry.”

Region co-ordinating officer Mark Robinson said: “Unite will be seeking the views of its members to see what action can be taken to defend the hundreds of jobs not only in West Norfolk but throughout the country.”

Sarah Beale, chief executive at CITB, said that construction and CITB needs to modernise.

She added: “I understand this strategy will bring about big changes to employees at CITB and we will be supporting our colleagues as much as possible throughout this process. “These are tough calls to make, but needed if we are to meet the future demands and make the greatest impact to construction. We have worked hard to develop robust, well thought-out plans which meet our industry’s needs whilst building a solid foundation for CITB’s future.

“The proposals outlined today will be phased in over the next three years, and with our customers always in mind it’s business as usual.”