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Social Security Offices (Sussex)

Volume 164: debated on Monday 8 January 1990

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12.

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement about staffing levels in local social security offices in Sussex.

Staffing levels in local social security offices in the Department are calculated using an agreed complementing system which aims to match staffing to work load. Under the system, staffing resources are allocated to regional offices where local circumstances are taken into account before these resources are distributed individually to local officers.

I appreciate the existence of that formula, but is my hon. Friend aware that, too often, too little attention is paid to the difficulties confronted by staff in local offices who have to introduce new benefits, use new methods, co-ordinate with local government and overcome difficulties with upgrading their offices? Can she build into the equation a greater appreciation of that, and the need to delegate to managers so that they can manage more effectively?

There have been difficulties at the Lewes local office during the year. Additional help in the form of casual staff, overtime, regional reserves and staff on detached duty has been made available to offset the shortfall. A new complementing system is to be introduced in April 1990. It will take account of the point raised by my hon. Friend, by being more sensitive to local office needs and taking account of local circumstances. I remind my hon. Friend that an additional £25 million was made available during the year to help local offices with their increased workload.