As part of its office closure programme announced in 2017, DWP also announced that 40 back of house offices were to be labelled ‘transition sites’ with an expectation that they would close between 2021 and 2023. This is extremely unsettling for the members working in these offices, especially as so little information has been forthcoming from DWP about its future intentions regarding the transition sites. Recent decisions not to make permanent the FTA staff in transition sites has only added to this uncertainty.
Many of the transition sites are in locations where redeployment of hundreds of members would be problematic at best and there has to be a real fear that some will be at risk of redundancy if DWP does go ahead and close the offices.
DWP maintains that no final decision has been taken on the future of the transition sites and they need to continually assess the number of staff and offices they need, which will inform future decisions. There is also a new Spending Review to come shortly that is bound to have an impact.
The department’s stated long term strategy is to move to have larger sites for back of house work, where multiple benefits can be processed on the one site. The best example of this is the plan to close five transition sites in South Wales and to move the work and the staff from those offices to a single large new site in Treforest in 2021. While this may look good in theory it fails to take into account members’ mobility problems and the poor public transport in that area.
It is clear to PCS that DWP needs more staff and consequently it needs the offices to house them in. The idea that the department would cope with the loss of 40 transitions sites, and the skilled and experienced staff working in them, is absurd. Currently DWP has to rely on huge amounts of overtime just to keep its head above water. This reliance on overtime shows that there is no capacity for closing offices and losing staff.
The GEC is committed to campaigning to keep the transition sites open and to fully supporting our members in these offices. We have been pressing DWP to provide more information for members and we will continue to make clear our opposition to any office closures and to campaign for the additional staff that DWP needs.