Despite a well organised and well supported campaign to prevent the closure of Newport's Passport Office, PCS Union leaders say they expect confirmation this Monday that the passport office will close with the loss of 280 jobs. The PCS said indications from the UK Government were it would press ahead with its cost cutting measures.
Local people, local politicians and local press were united in their call to retain the Passport Office, the Westminster Welsh Affairs Select Committee has criticised the move warning that it will have a "significant" economic impact in Newport. An Identity and Passport Service spokesman said it had completed a collective consultation over the centre's future and that it would inform staff of the future of the office on Monday.
So much for a Conservative dominated Government listening to Wales and so much for the consultation and listening to local concerns. While I rarely agree with any sentiments expressed by the South Wales Argus in relation to Wales, The South Wales Argus, adequately described the news of the closure and its impact on Newport back in October 2010 in an editorial, which I post in full:
IGNORANCE OF WELSH IDENTITY
AS we have said all through our campaign to save Newport's passport office, the loss of 300 jobs would devastate each and every individual and their families and have a severe impact on the local economy.
But at a time when the government is actively planning the loss of half a million public sector jobs the loss of 300 is not in itself likely to cause it to reverse the closure decision.
What we have said all along is that it is morally and philosophically wrong for the Welsh nation to lose its only passport office - a powerful symbol of national identity.
Now we discover what, in truth, we had suspected all along.
In reaching its decision to obliterate the passport office in Newport the home office did not for one moment consider the impact this may have on the national identity of the Welsh.
At a time when officialdom goes way over the top not to upset various religious or lifestyle lobbying groups, and when it is rightly illegal to discriminate against anyone because of their racial or ethnic backgrounds the home office (upholder of the law) sees no difficulty in ignoring Welsh identity.
This takes us back to the days when the Encyclopaedia Britannica told its readers that to read about Wales they had to look under references to England. This is the work of Whitehall mandarins and ministers who see Wales as nothing more than an extension of England.
This newspaper is not in any way an advocate of Welsh nationalism, but it does believe totally in the right to nationalistic Welshness.
Whitehall's failure to recognise the inalienable rights of Wales to equality with other nations smacks to us of institutionalised racism.
It is time to draw a line in the sand which central government thinks very carefully before crossing.
Criteria for crossing this line should not just consist simply of a business case but of a complete understanding that this is a different part of the United Kingdom, not a region of England, with a proud history and with proud traditions, which it is not going to surrender.
The politicians need to acknowledge this fact and, as we have said before, deliver a much more sensitive strategy for saving money that does not deliver a kick in the teeth for Wales.
[The South Wales Argus EDITORIAL COMMENT...on Wednesday 27th October 2010]