24 March 2022

Defence Secretary announces DBS move to Blackpool

The Secretary of State for Defence made a statement about DBS moving to Blackpool in his speech to the Conservative Spring conference.

In his speech to the Conservative party spring conference last weekend, Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace said "I can announce today that the new home of the Defence Business Services.....will be based right here in Blackpool". 

His announcement that DBS will be moving to Blackpool was premature and unhelpful. The negotiations with PCS about any potential move have not yet ended and the business case for such a move has not been fully submitted.

After Mr Wallace's announcement, PCS met with DBS CEO, Richard Cornish, on Monday. He then wrote to all staff to clarify that the speech did not extend the scope of the workplace programme (WPP) beyond the north west and that the project was still subject to a full business case.

We appreciate the speed at which DBS responded to our call for dialogue, however we are concerned that the Defence Secretary's speech was not clear. Conference speeches can be generalised and designed to score political points. PCS has engaged with the MPs in our parliamentary group to take action and one of the group has a meeting set with the Minister already.

PCS taking action for our members in Defence

As the situation stands the Defence Secretary has confirmed a decision to consolidate DBS into Blackpool in advance of the completion of the full business case and without the appropriate trade union consultation and engagement as laid out in the MOD Employee Relations Framework Agreement.

PCS tabled a set of demands in March 2021 to ensure members got the best outcomes from the workplace programme. These were tabled when DBS announced that, no matter the outcome of the WPP, Cheadle Hulme would close. Since then, DBS has announced that the preferred option is to consolidate north west accommodation at the proposed government hub in Blackpool.

There have been long and detailed discussions with the project team and we are pleased that we have achieved most of the assurances we sought, including importantly the agreement that this would be treated as a non-standard move for all staff. This means that administrative grades and part-time staff will access all mover and fares packages that we can negotiate for you. There will be no unagreed redundancies.

DBS have not triggered mobility, but have reserved the right to do so. PCS believes DBS must assure that mobility clauses will not be used to force our members to commute unreasonable distances. We have pointed out that extant case law shows the civil service mobility clause to be discriminatory and to now contravene the 2010 Equality Act.

It is disappointing that DBS would not make this assurance. We intend to set up ‘mobility waiver surgeries’ at impacted sites once a final decision has been made on the WPP and we will challenge triggering of mobility legally.

What can members do?

  • Bring any concerns to PCS. Contact your local reps, the DBS Team or myself.
  • Ensure your details are up to date on PCS Digital and include your home/personal email address and mobile phone number.
  • Everyone needs a union at times like these. Encourage your colleagues to join PCS. Become a PCS rep for your workplace and get involved in the union; all training and support is given.
  • When we run the ‘mobility waiver’ surgeries (date to be announced) make sure you come along.
  • Ask your MP to add their voice to that of the MPs in the PCS cross-party parliamentary group about the Defence Secretary’s speech.  Ask that the minister qualifies the scope of DBS that will be looked at and to confirm his commitment to the correct business case process.