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Anger and sadness as 350 jobs at RPA set to leave Northallerton
THE news that 350 public sector jobs are to move out of a North Yorkshire town was last night described as a "bitter blow" for the area.
Workers at the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) in Northallerton have been told their jobs are being relocated to either York or Newcastle.
Fears for the jobs were first raised in May when it emerged that the private lease on the building occupied by the agency, Alverton Court, was being renegotiated as part of Government cost-cutting.
Yesterday's announcement confirming the closure of the office is the latest setback for Northallerton, coming on top of proposals to relocate the nearby headquarters of North Yorkshire Police, and job cuts at North Yorkshire County Council's headquarters, also in the town.
It is understood that the RPA will move out of Northallerton by February next year, but there are concerns over plans to transfer staff to Newcastle, where the lease is up for renewal in 2015.
Natural England, which has 50 staff in another part of Alverton Court, is moving to York.
Staff at the RPA site last night said many workers with young families will not be able to make the move.
One worker, who asked not to be named, said: "Many people have been here for years and don't want to move.
"For parents with young children it could add two hours travelling to the working day. Everyone feels really let down."
Trevor Porteus, who works for Interserve, which runs the RPA site, added: "It is a bitter blow for the town and I really feel for the workers.
"I am 68 so it's not a problem for me, we will be going along with the RPA, but for people with young children and maybe couples, they're facing huge amounts of travelling or moving."
Mayor of Northallerton John Forrest said: "It is absolutely disgusting the way Northallerton is being treated. We are the county town, but we are being depleted.
"It is an absolute shame we seem to be losing all the large public employers."
Northallerton county councillor Tony Hall said it was a really sad day for the area. "The economy of Northallerton is heavily dependent on public sector employers," he said. "Around 50 per cent of jobs are with the county and district council's, the Friarage Hospital, the RPA and the prison.
"This will impact on all aspects of the local economy."
A spokesperson for the RPA, which administers £2bn of Common Agriculture Policy money paid annually to farmers, said: "We appreciate the decision to leave Alverton Court is disappointing to many of our people.
"However, we will do everything possible to ensure a smooth transition for everyone and would stress that this is not about job losses and that we will continue to deliver the same level of service to our customers.
"This decision has not been made lightly and we are working hard to provide as much clarity and certainty to those impacted.
"All our people who are prepared to work flexibly have been guaranteed a job and all posts will remain in the region."
The public sector union, PCS, described yesterday's announcement as hugely disappointing. Union representatives are having discussions with the RPA this week and have called a staff meeting next Monday.
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