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Volume 624: debated on Tuesday 18 April 2017


Tuesday 18 April 2017



No. 31 bus service to Cheadle from Hanley

The petition of residents of the constituency of Stone in Staffordshire,

Declares that the No. 31 bus service to Cheadle from Hanley should not be withdrawn.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to ensure that the No.31 bus service to Cheadle from Hanley is not withdrawn.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Sir William Cash, Official Report, 15 March 2017; Vol. 623, c. 459.]


Observations from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Andrew Jones):

I recognise the importance of public transport for both the sustainability and independence of communities, and its valuable role in preventing isolation.

Three-quarters of bus services outside London are provided on a commercial basis by private operators and decisions on service provision are mainly a matter for the operator concerned. However, where there is not enough demand for a bus route to be commercially viable in its own right, all local authorities in England have powers to subsidise bus services which they consider socially necessary.

The Government provide around £200 million to bus operators in England via Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG), around £40 million of which goes direct to the local authorities who tender those services.

It is also worth noting that the Bus Services Bill, currently progressing through Parliament, will provide local authorities with new tools to improve bus services. This includes future powers to request commercial information from bus operators who withdraw, or reduce significantly, local bus services.

I therefore strongly encourage bus operators and local authorities to work together, in consultation with local communities, to identify the right transport solutions that meet the economic and environmental challenges faced in the area and deliver the greatest benefits for residents.


Unfinished Dwellings in Heol Berwyn, Cefn Mawr

The petition of residents of Cefn Mawr in the constituency of Clywd South,

Declares that the petitioners believe that it is unacceptable that Harron Homes has only part finished the construction of residential dwellings in Heol Berwyn, Cefn Mawr; further declares that part finished construction sites may become magnets for anti-social behaviour and infestations of rats due to partially constructed sewers; and further that such part finished construction sights are a blight upon communities.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to declare and enforce that part finished construction sites be completed, sold outright, part sold or gifted to the Local Authority or a Housing Association.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Susan Elan Jones, Official Report, 8 March 2017; Vol. 622, c. 910.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Wales (Alun Cairns):

Housing policy and the decision-making process for planning applications for housing developments in Wales are devolved and the responsibility of the relevant Local Authorities, the Welsh Government and their agencies.

Work and Pensions

Closure of Jobcentres

The petition of residents of the UK,

Declares that the closure of the two remaining Jobcentres in Wavertree should not take place; and further that meaningful consultations should take place on proposals that consider the delivery of services to the public.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to stop the closure of two remaining Jobcentres in Wavertree; and further that the Government should immediately halt all DWP Jobcentre/office closure proposals, undertake immediate Equality Impact Assessments, and enter into proper meaningful consultation on all proposals that affect communities and the delivery of services to the public.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Luciana Berger, Official Report, 28 February 2017; Vol. 622, c. 267.]


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 which will continue to meet the needs of customers across Liverpool, and this includes maintaining local staffing levels across our Jobcentre Plus network. All of our customer facing staff at Wavertree and Edge Hill jobcentres will be relocated to our proposed site at Toxteth, with our back of house staff relocating to Huyton jobcentre. 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 and expect to have more Work Coaches in every nation and region in March 2018 compared to today.

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.

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 is 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 have consulted publicly. This included our proposals for moving the services currently based at Wavertree and Edge Hill.

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 Analysis which will be reflected in our final business decisions.