On Tuesday 13th January, Sir David Higgins told the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee that HS2 Ltd are moving their head office to Birmingham, saying “We will obviously have a base here, because we have people who need to be in Parliament every day, and we have temporary space at Canary Wharf.” This followed on from the announcement in July 2014 that HS2 Ltd had taken on 97,858 square feet of office space above Snow Hill Station, at a cost of four million pounds per year, meaning 1500 jobs would be based in the city.
So with the potential that two million quid of taxpayers money has already been spent on renting an office, you might be excused for thinking that the place was full of employees and of course that all the new staff would be automatically employed in Birmingham, unless as Sir David suggested, they are staff who need to be in Parliament.
Well, in response to a written question from Cheryl Gillan MP on 27th January, Under-Secretary of State Robert Goodwill replied:
“HS2 Ltd is about to commence a consultation exercise to determine how many existing staff will need to be relocated from London. As HS2 Ltd is yet to recruit the majority of its workforce, recruitment of new staff will be directly into their place of work. Budgetary provision of £2.4m will be made to cover potential relocation costs over the next three years.”
So six months after signing a deal for office space in Birmingham, HS2 Ltd is yet to even start considering which staff should be located there, and that process is expected to take up to three years. But as Goodwill said, ‘the recruitment of new staff will be directly into their place of work’, so those staff not needed to be in Parliament must all be being employed in Birmingham?
Well of course not! Of the 111 jobs currently being advertised for HS2 Ltd, just 39 are based in Birmingham and 66 are based in London, with 6 being ‘either/or’. Only one of the 111 jobs, the £58,000 Head of External and Parliamentary Relations has working in Parliament in the job description, though in reality, this is a public affairs role.
On 3 February, The Sun reported that HS2 Ltd has spent £600,000 on 16 non-jobs, including speechwriters and a head of health and safety who specialises in behavioural change. The company is also looking for an engagement manager to establish strong relationship between HS2 and its backer, the Department for Transport. Other jobs include a £38,500 freedom of information officer.
The TaxPayers Alliance said: “These are ludicrous overpaid jobs. Taxpayers will be furious at the high-speed gravy train.”
Jobs currently being advertised include;
- A £28,500 ‘Photography Executive’, “To support the HS2 Image Manager and Photographer in organising, shooting and editing of photographic assignments”
- A £45,000 ‘Content Strategist’, “The Content & Insight team is responsible for ensuring the HS2 story is effectively told….. providing a high quality speechwriting service for our senior executive team”
- £26,500 for a PA / Administrator to Residents’ Commissioner. The Residents Commissioner is expected to work just 8 days per month.