Department for Education staff prepare to strike

paperwork The PCS accuses Education Secretary Michael Gove of using his department as a "test bed" for wider cuts

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Staff at the Department for Education (DfE) in England are to stage fresh strike action in a dispute over jobs and office closures.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), who took industrial action last month, will walk out for two hours next Wednesday.

The union said staff had been told six of the DfE's 12 offices would be shut, putting about 500 jobs at risk.

A DfE spokesman said it had to ensure value for money for the taxpayer.

All Whitehall departments have to find savings of about a third by the next election, as a result of spending cuts announced by the chancellor in 2010.

The DfE was already on track to save 42% - but in November, Education Secretary Michael Gove announced he would halve his administrative costs by the year 2015-16.

The PCS has accused Mr Gove of using his department as an "ideological test bed" for wider civil service cuts.

Start Quote

We must create a department that delivers an excellent service to the public, while ensuring value for money for the taxpayer”

End Quote Department for Education

The union's general secretary, Mark Serwotka, said: "Ministers are ignoring all reasoned argument and pressing ahead with cuts and closures that are clearly purely political.

"As it slashes half of its budget and plans to cut a quarter of staff, the DfE is yet to say what it will not do in future and we fear vital public services, such as ensuring children are safe at school and supporting special educational needs, will be put at risk."

Union members are involved in a three-month-long campaign of industrial action and protests across the civil service over cuts to pay, pensions and working conditions.

A DfE spokesman said: "We want this country to have the best education system and the best children's services.

"To achieve this, we must create a department that delivers an excellent service to the public, while ensuring value for money for the taxpayer.

"In November, we announced we would close six of our 12 sites over the next five years as part of the department's ongoing commitment to reduce costs and secure value for money for the taxpayer.

"We have held extensive discussions with the PCS. Any strike action is completely out of step with the vast majority of hard-working, professional civil servants at the DfE."

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