To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) if she plans to provide a period of consultation with (a) the local authorities, (b) the clients, (c) hon. Members and (d) other agencies, before implementing changes in the levels of staffing and services provided at the Grays, Essex Benefits Office; and if she will make a statement; (2) when unions were consulted about details of plans to alter the levels of staffing and services provided at the Grays, Essex Benefits Office; and if she will make a statement; (3) what plans there are to alter the levels of staffing and services provided at the Grays, Essex Benefits Office; and if she will make a statement. 
The operational organisation of benefit offices is a matter for Peter Mathison, the Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to my hon. Friend.
Letter from Peter Mathison to Mr. Andrew Mackinlay, dated 24 November 1997:
The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Questions concerning the levels of staffing and services provided by the Benefits Agency (BA) office at Grays, Essex.
The BA is undertaking a reappraisal of its services and the way they are provided in order to modernise service delivery and make savings for the taxpayer. Part of this reappraisal includes an analysis of the use the Agency makes of its present accommodation. The BA's Essex South West District, which includes the office at Grays, is looking at ways to rationalise its accommodation.
The manager of the BA's District wrote to local MPs and representatives of 28 local organisations to inform interested parties of the proposed changes. As there will be no change to the service provided to the public at the Grays office, a formal period of consultation is not considered necessary.
The proposals will have some impact on staff locally. Accordingly, the local Trade Unions were advised separately of the announcement and there will be extensive local discussions to ensure a successful implementation of the proposals.
Some processing work currently conducted at Grays will transfer to Basildon. However, a full caller facility will be retained at Grays along with some of the existing processing work. Customers will be able to call at the office as they do now. Indeed, the proposed changes will enhance the service for disabled people who will be provided with improved access to the building.
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