Jonathan Schofield and a Bloc booking we can all appreciate

This is good news. News about more jobs is always good news. Thus, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is creating a new base in Marble Street, off Spring Gardens, in Manchester, with the potential for creating up to 400 employment opportunities. It's a Bloc-booking. The building hosting the new offices is owned by Bruntwood Works and was retitled Bloc in 2019, losing its old name, Lowry House. 

Government must not be concentrated in the capital, more decision-makers based in the North brings a different perspective

The main purpose of the move out of the capital is to create a head office for Building Digital UK (BDUK). This body is coordinating a £5 billion project to push a broadband rollout to rural areas across the UK.

Councillor Bev Craig, Leader of Manchester City Council, is naturally pleased.

She said: “Not only is the move a reflection of Manchester's role as a northern epicentre for culture, media and sport - and our thriving and fast-growing tech sector - it is also a move which should help stimulate further innovation and investment in the city and beyond.”

She continued: "The city is at the heart of a huge and diverse talent pool and tapping into that will benefit the government as well as bringing hundreds of jobs and other opportunities here.  Government must not be concentrated in the capital and having more decision-makers based in the North should help bring a different perspective. Our door is always open to discuss further such relocations.”  

Nadine Dorries is in charge of the DCMS

Nadine Dorries (main picture) is the mild-mannered gently understated minister (er, right) in charge of the DCMS. She makes the same point as Craig: “The days of London-centric decision making belong in the past. It’s an exciting time for DCMS as we expand our regional offices and tap into a more diverse talent pool.”

The move is part of the Conservative Party’s levelling-up initiative. The reasoning here being that a greater diversity of voice is good for the blood of government departments and makes them more representative of the country at large. 

Bloc Manchester
Bloc offices on Marble Street, now updated and ready to host the DCMS Image: Knight Frank


New kid on the Bloc

The building the BDUK is about to occupy is interesting in its own right. It began life in 1973 as a fiercely Brutalist concrete speculative office scheme by Robert Swift and Partners. It was such a tough-looking building it always appeared a good place to run should there be a nuclear attack.

A couple of years ago Manchester-based Bruntwood Works did what Bruntwood Works does best of all the nation’s developers. It created something modern and attractive in a former post-war office building. Essentially the bare bones of the 16-storey building have been retained but softened with living walls, yoga studios, a coffee shop and so on all aimed at co-working and hybrid work patterns. Bruntwood Works itself says it's transformed the space "from a corporate office building to a wellbeing-focused workplace".  

Brewdog And Doghouse Fountain Street Manchester
Part of Bloc hosts Brewdog bar and its Doghouse Hotel Image: Confidentials

That description might be a bit too metropolitan for the plain-speaking controversialist Nadine Dorries. Still, since she apparently likes a drink she can be comforted, if she ever visits, that the same building hosts a huge Brewdog including the Brewdog Doghouse Hotel should she wish to stay over. 

If that happens maybe she could take a quick trip over to MediaCity too and the BBC base. She's not a fan of the BBC and its licence fee but if this DCMS move is part of the levelling-up agenda then she maybe needs to think long and hard about the role of the BBC in the regions. Her plans to abolish the licence in 2027 could leave to huge job losses. It'd be a shame to gain 400 jobs at Bloc and lose the same or more 3 miles away.  

Follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter @jonathschofield

Read next: Win two co-working spaces at Bruntwood SciTech’s Tech Incubator at Circle Square for one year

Read again: Property: Manchester House in motion; city solar farm, Stockport Library stays put for now

Get the latest news to your inbox

Get the latest food & drink news and exclusive offers by email by signing up to our mailing list. This is one of the ways that Confidentials remains free to our readers and by signing up you help support our high quality, impartial and knowledgable writers. Thank you!