THE head of the UK Civil Service has said more public sector jobs could come to York - as unions claim 35 staff will be made redundant under a controversial package of cost-cutting reforms.

Sir Bob Kerslake visited agencies based at Foss House, including Defra, the Food Standards Agency and the Rural Payments Agency, yesterday amid a shake-up which is seeing work switched to Shared Services Connected Ltd (SSCL), formed by a deal between the British arm of French IT services group Steria and the Cabinet Office.

The PCS union has said 508 Civil Service roles, including 35 in York - where 2,000 are employed - will be shed through the move, with SSCL saying the final job-loss figure will be confirmed once a consultation period ends.

Sir Bob said the service was shrinking due to austerity measures, but said: "We are committed to retaining a presence in York across a range of Government activities, particularly those relating to Defra.

"Places like York have huge advantages for us. We get very good-quality staff, there is generally less turnover and the working environment is very good. There is a lot to be said for us keeping civil servants in York and elsewhere outside London - about three-quarters of staff now work outside the Greater London area.

"Every bit of the Civil Service is seeing a reduction in staff numbers and that will impact on everywhere, including York. However, we have seen the Rural Payments Agency move from Northallerton to York and, while I can't give specific examples, we could see other things moving to York from across the service. I personally think the Civil Service will continue to have a presence in York for the foreseeable future."

Sir Bob, who said he was not aware of any plans by SSCL to move out of Foss House, said: "We will be seeing change into the next Government, but we shouldn't see that as a barrier to people joining the service and doing really great jobs.

"People have a passion for their jobs and want to improve the service we provide. Of course they have experienced concerns over pension payments and flattening of salaries, but, by and large, they understand we have been through a period of considerable austerity and the public sector is affected by that."