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DWP Office Closures

Volume 711: debated on Thursday 31 March 2022

3. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the planned closure of her Department’s offices. (906413)

The Department for Work and Pensions locations plan is in line with the wider Government Places for Growth programme. That programme aims to deliver a more geographically diverse civil and public service that will better serve the public. The recent announcements will support the DWP’s delivery of a strategy that will, over the next 10 years, reshape how, where and when it delivers services. These closures are not part of a plan to reduce headcount.

The moving of 411 jobs from Chorlton in my constituency will have a serious impact on the district centre and the shops and services that they help sustain; undoubtedly, the same will apply to the other 40 offices in towns and suburbs across the country. How do those office closures contribute to the Government’s stated aim of spreading civil service jobs around the country and, indeed, to levelling up?

People are being asked to move either three miles or eight miles away. They are having one-to-one bespoke meetings asking them how they would like to carry on working. As I say, all 411 jobs will be staying in the civil service because such important back-office jobs are needed. People are being asked to find where the best place is for them to work. If they want to carry on working in other civil service jobs in the area, they can transfer.

I am on a roll, Mr Speaker. The last time I asked whether the Government are planning to sack hard-working civil servants, as the Minister for Government Efficiency has proposed, he sidestepped the question. Now we know why. The Government have since announced the closure of 41 DWP offices across the country, in the middle of an economic crisis and when their services are needed more than ever. All of the offices being closed entirely are outside London, and the vast majority are in the very areas that have been promised more investment. So much for levelling up.

Will the Minister now tell us just how many jobs are at risk? Will she guarantee that there will be no compulsory redundancies, and will she explain how this fits into the Government’s plan to reform the civil service?

The hon. Lady asks a number of questions. Regarding the question asked by the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Jeff Smith), the landlord wants the property back and wants to redevelop the area, which will bring other jobs to the area. However, the most important thing is, on these very important back-office jobs for these 411 people, that they are not looking at any reduction in headcount.