To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans he has to close offices in Rochdale metropolitan district council area, including Middleton; and if he will make a statement.
We have no such plans. We have been carrying out a comprehensive review of the Department's existing network of local offices, arising from our plans to convert social security benefit operations into a "next steps" agency from April 1991. We intend to devolve authority for the day-to-day running of operations, to the greatest extent possible, from headquarters and the present regional tiers of management to local level. In practice, these units of administration, to be known as local management units, will be made up of two or more existing local offices controlled by a single management team. It is no part of our plans to reduce the number of local offices.Local managers will have much more responsibility for planning their service to fit local needs, depending on factors such as the population to be served, predicted economic activity and local transport facilities. The emphasis will be on making the local service more responsive to the needs of local customers, not less.