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Jobcentre Plus

Volume 403: debated on Thursday 10 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what plans he has to (a) close, (b) reduce the services available from and (c) reduce the opening hours of Job Centre Plus premises open to the public (i) in Hendon and (ii) serving Hendon residents; [108230](2) what consultations his Department has had with

(a) trade unions, (b) customers and (c) others on changes to the operations of Job Centre Plus (i) in Hendon and (ii) serving residents of Hendon; with which other bodies or persons consultations were held; what the responses to the consultations were; and if he will make a statement. [108236]

[holding answer 9 April 2003]: The administration of Job Centre Plus is a matter for the Acting Chief Executive of Job Centre Plus, Clare Dodgson. She will write to my hon. Friend.

Letter from Clare Dodgson to Mr. Dismore, dated 10 April 2003:

As Jobcentre Plus is an Executive Agency, the Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your questions about future plans for Hendon Jobcentre Plus offices and the level of consultation which has taken place in relation to this. These are issues which fell within my responsibilities as Acting Chief Executive of the Agency.
The Jobcentre Plus Vision incorporates a commitment to continuously improve the quality, accessibility and delivery of services to all working age customers. Already, the Jobcentre Plus Pathfinder offices have begun to demonstrate a very different model of service, which has been widely welcomed by our customers.
As part of the national roll-out programme for Jobcentre Plus, it was necessary to consider the services provided to our customers within each District. It became clear that we needed to review the existing estate and in some cases rationalise the accommodation in Jobcentre Plus and Social Security Offices. The aim of the review is to enable Jobcentre Plus to deliver a better, more focused and cost effective customer service.
Within the North London District, the current service provision at the Hendon and Edgware Social Security Offices (SSOs) was reviewed. Various options were considered as part of this process and the favoured option was in providing National Insurance Number interviews at Hendon, and benefit enquiries/payments at Edgware. It was proposed that by centralising the customer services between the two sites, an overall improvement of service would be achieved. There are good transport links by bus between Hendon and Edgware and customers will be able to access services at both locations regardless of where they live.
The staff affected by the changes to the Hendon and Edgware SSOs have been consulted. The Trade Union and staff directly involved with the proposed changes, were issued with a copy of the proposal on 4 April. Their comments on the proposal are due to be returned by 18 April.
After considering the feedback, MPs and external organisations will then be formally notified of the proposed changes and comments will be invited. The proposed deadline for comments on the proposal is expected to be 2 May 2003.
Decisions on the longer term plans for provision of Jobcentre Plus services in Hendon and Edgware will not be taken until nearer the proposed roll-out date, which is anticipated to be in 2005–06. This is when we expect to have the fully integrated model, currently operating in the Pathfinder Districts, to be introduced in the North London District.
Burnt Oak Jobcentre was part of Brent, Harrow and Hillingdon District and is situated in the HA8 postcode area. Based on the rollout plan for this district for 2002–03, a decision was taken to close this stand-alone Jobcentre, which provided only a limited job broking service. Benefit customers have not been affected. Brent, Harrow and Hillingdon have been putting together these proposals over the course of the past nine months, during which time the local trade union has been kept closely in touch with developments. Although we did not consult customers themselves, we did write to customer representative groups including Community Mental Health teams, the London Homeless services team, local Citizens' Advice Bureaux and local businesses at the same time as we wrote to you and to other local Members of Parliament about the service delivery plan for the Brent, Harrow and Hillingdon Jobcentre Plus district.
I regret that you feel that the letter informing you of the plans for Burnt Oak Jobcentre was unclear. I have reviewed the guidance covering these circumstances and put in place arrangements to help ensure we are clearer about proposals and plans in the future. I have instructed my District Managers to state when writing to Members of Parliament and stakeholders the actual names of any offices they are considering closing as part of their Jobcentre Plus Service Delivery Plans.
I hope this is helpful.