DWP has announced its intention to close Balham Benefit Centre. Under the People and Locations Programme, Balham was listed as a transition site with a short-term lease until 31 March 2020. The landlord has told DWP that it intends to redevelop the site and is not willing to extend the lease beyond March 2020.
DWP has also announced that it does not intend to retain any of the work done at Balham in London and will migrate all the work to other parts of the country. This is a disastrous decision for the PCS members at Balham as few, if any of them, will be able to move with their work. It makes no sense for the department either, as it will lose all the knowledge and experience that the Balham staff will have accrued over the years.
DWP says that it will do all it can to redeploy the 220 staff who work at Balham. While that may be relatively easy for some members, PCS is concerned that over half of the staff at Balham are in the AA and AO grades and there are increasingly fewer roles for members in those grades both in DWP and in the wider civil service.
Croydon option rejected by DWP
DWP says that it is too expensive to seek to rent another comparable site in London. PCS argued that the work, and any staff within mobility, could be relocated to the large new civil service hub in Croydon. However, DWP has refused to even consider this as an option.
Migrating the work out of London further reduces the already low levels of back of house processing work that DWP does in the London area. DWP says that this is part of its strategy to gradually migrate back of house processing work out of London, which will be deeply unwelcome for members who work in the handful of back of house processing sites that remain in London.
Members at Balham who accept the ongoing offer for the Voluntary Exit Scheme (VES) will leave the department at the end of June 2019. Other members who find a redeployment opportunity between now and next March will be allowed to leave as soon as practical. One-to-one meetings will individuals will begin shortly to give staff an opportunity to discuss their options.
PCS has made it clear to DWP that we oppose the closure and the decision to migrate all the work out of London.