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Mystery surrounds closure of ministry

Necessary closure: Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch explained move (File photograph)

The mystery closure of education ministry headquarters could be because it was “a toxic environment”.

Susan Jackson, the Shadow Minister of Health, was speaking after it was announced that the education offices in St David’s would be closed immediately and staff relocated.

Ms Jackson said she did not know why the headquarters was shuttered, but that she welcomed the decision.

She explained: “I have visited that building and its lack of windows and outside air ventilation was probably a toxic environment waiting to happen.”

Ms Jackson said she understood the building was used for storage before education officials moved in.

She added: “There wasn’t any interior design to make it user friendly for human habitation.”

The Ministry of Education and Workforce Development announced the closure late on Monday.

A spokeswoman said that a health and safety co-ordinator had ruled that staff should be relocated “as soon as possible”.

She added the headquarters had undergone a number of health and safety inspections and repairs in recent years.

The ministry refused to answer questions yesterday about the reasons for the closure.

A spokeswoman said yesterday that the ministry would provide “updates in due course”.

Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, said the closure was necessary.

Colonel Burch added: “We have a responsibility to provide the safest possible work environment for our employees and we take that very seriously.”

He said the ministry aimed to make a “seamless transition” to a new site to ensure back-to-school preparations continued.

Colonel Burch added: “I am working with my team in the ministry to make ready an identified location, complete with the necessary IT interface required for the Ministry of Education’s headquarters team.”

Ms Jackson said she was pleased to hear that alternative accommodation had been identified.

She added: “I’m hoping that will be a better work environment, from a health and safety perspective.”

Dame Jennifer Smith, then education minister, announced the ministry would move from Hamilton to St David’s in 2011 as a cost-cutting measure.

She said money would be saved by moving staff from several buildings in Hamilton to a central location in the East End.