The petition of residents of Glasgow Central,
Declares that the Department for Work and Pensions’ plan to close Bridgeton Jobcentre and half of all Jobcentre Plus offices in Glasgow is morally outrageous; express our concerns that the city is being used as the testing ground for more devastating cuts across the UK; further that the proposals to close eight of the 16 Jobcentre offices across Glasgow, will impact on tens of thousands of people in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment Support Allowance and Universal Credit; further that the UK Government has already indicated that 20% of the Jobcentre estate will see closures, and Glasgow has been handpicked to take a disproportionate hit of 50% closures; further that it will result in the poorest communities not being serviced by a Jobcentre and make it even harder for those seeking employment to get support; further that thousands of people could also have to travel further at additional cost to attend their appointments; further that the UK Government have brought forward these proposals without carrying out an Equality Impact Assessment and without consulting the Scottish Government; and further that any Jobcentre closures in Glasgow will see one of the most deprived parts of the UK starved of a vital service that should be available in communities; impacting both on Scottish workers at these centres and also those most disadvantaged in need of benefits.
The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to halt any moves to close Bridgeton Jobcentre, or at the very least carry out an Equality Impact Assessment immediately prior to a full public consultation across Scotland.
And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Alison Thewliss, Official Report, 08 February 2017; Vol. 621, c. 572.]
Observations from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Damian Green):
On 31 March 2018 DWP’s PFI PRIME (Private Resource Initiative for the Management of the Estate) contract with Telereal Trillium expires. This 20-year contract covers the majority of DWP’s current property portfolio of over 900 sites. This has given us a unique opportunity to review which offices we will need in the future, taking account of the increased use of our online services, the impact of Universal Credit and the anticipated demand on our services.
The falling claimant count and the increased use of our online services in recent years means that 20% of rent is going toward space we are not using. As a result we expect to save an estimated £180 million per year for 10 years as a result of our proposals for estate rationalisation.
We have sought to redesign our estate in a way that will continue to meet the needs of customers across Glasgow and Scotland, and this includes maintaining local staffing levels across our Jobcentre Plus network. All of our staff at Bridgeton jobcentre will be relocated to our proposed site at Shettleston Road. They will continue to offer the same support and services to our claimants and will maintain the relationships they have built up over time. In fact, we are recruiting nationally and will have more work coaches in every nation and region and more in the city of Glasgow by March 2018.
Our plan has always been to reduce the amount of space we occupy nationally by 20% and we have announced similar proposals across England, Scotland, and Wales in line with this plan. As Jobcentres vary in size this 20% figure does not relate directly to the number of Jobcentres in a specific area. Scotland, and Glasgow in particular, has a disproportionate number of small jobcentres. Even if we do implement our current proposals, Scotland will continue to have a higher number of Jobcentres relative to both total population and claimant count compared to England, Scotland, and Wales as a whole.
We have carefully considered the wider impacts on local communities as part of review of our estate and the sites we intend to keep were identified based on a wide range of factors, including geographical coverage and accessibility. Where we are proposing to close a jobcentre we are taking all possible precautions to minimise disruption for customers and vulnerable people. This includes using face to face, e-mail, telephone and postal contact and, where none of those routes are appropriate, home visits.
We believe that it is a reasonable expectation that a customer travels to a new location which is within three miles or 20 minutes by public transport of their existing jobcentre. Where we propose moving a Jobcentre to a location which is further away than this we are consulting publicly. This includes our proposals for moving the services currently based at Maryhill, Bridgeton and Castlemilk in Glasgow and also Broxburn in West Lothian.
The Department has been mindful of its duties under the Equality Act 2010 throughout the development of these proposals. Statistical analysis of the potential impact of the proposals on people with the protected characteristics has informed high-level decision-making so far. We are now collecting local, site-specific information and will be conducting Equality Impact Assessments which will be reflected in our final business decisions.