DWP is announcing today it will go ahead with its programme to decimate the DWP estate by closing large numbers of DWP offices by March 2018. Of the proposed closures announced in January just a small number have been spared the axe.
PCS is outraged that the department has refused to withdraw its closure programme. Hundreds of members will now be at risk of redundancy as a result and the service we provide for claimants will be drastically weakened.
DWP says that the proposed closures will go ahead, with just six out of the original 78 jobcentres earmarked for closure being saved. The six being reprieved are: Glasgow Castlemilk, Edmonton, Glasgow Cambuslang, Newcastle East, South Shields and Plymouth Old Tree Court (jobcentre only).
Of the original 80 jobcentre co-locations with local councils only 11 will not now go ahead. These reversals are nearly all due to there not being enough space in the local council buildings, rather than a change of heart by the department. These are Chelmsley Wood, Chesham, Holyhead, Ystradgynlais, Llandrindod Wells, Newton Afon, Penrith, Grantham, Preston Friargate, Tamworth, and Ashton/Stalybridge.
The public consultation that was held on 30 of the proposed jobcentre closures has only led to one proposed closure being reversed (Glasgow Castlemilk). As PCS stated all along, this exposes the public consultation exercise as a sham, with no account being given to the many representations from PCS, our members, MPs and community groups, who called for their jobcentres to be saved. No valid reasons have been given for this decimation of the jobcentre network and DWP is exposed as prioritising saving money over providing a quality service.
PCS are clear that many service users depend on the local jobcentre being based in the community it serves, and this closure programme will only make already vulnerable members of society even more so. PCS will continue to push for the appropriate assessments to be carried out to protect services and our claimants. PCS is demanding that DWP immediately publishes its equality analyses on each site that is being closed. Currently these are secret and should be made public.
Back Of House offices to close
Only two back of house offices have been saved (Barrow and Bishop Auckland). The decision not to close Barrow and Bishop Auckland is very welcome and will avoid what were almost certain compulsory redundancies at those sites. Saving these offices is testament to the hard campaigning done by PCS and our members.
However, DWP is to go ahead and close all of the other back of house offices that were announced in January. These include sites where compulsory redundancies are now highly likely, at Poole, Wembley, Llanelli, Cumnock and Annesley. It is outrageous that DWP has decided to push its own workforce into redundancy at a time when DWP needs more staff not less. What a terrible reward for all the years of hard service the members in these offices have given to the department.
Porth Debt Centre is still closing, but the staff will now be moved to Tonypandy rather than Caerphilly, following representations from PCS that the move to Caerphilly was unworkable.
New closures announced
To rub salt into the wounds, DWP has announced that two sites that were to stay open are now also to close. Poplar jobcentre in London is now to close in c.2020. Cobalt House in Newcastle was a transitional site but has now been told it will close earlier and staff moved to Tyne View Park.
Final Decisions delayed
In a small number of cases DWP has yet to finalise the commercial arrangements and so is not yet able to make a final decision announcement
Corporate Centre Redundancies likely
DWP has further announced it will proceed with the harshest possible ‘hub strategy’ for the Corporate Centre. Not only is DWP closing several current Corporate Centre sites, including Birchwood and Preston Holborn House, it is now saying that all ‘core’ corporate centre staff will have to work in one of the six designated hub locations every working day. As many corporate centre staff are outside of mobility for the hubs redundancies are now highly likely.
The corporate centre has worked well for years with many staff based in locations all over the country. There is no valid reason for refusing to allow these staff to continue to do so. Some exceptions may be allowed for staff deemed business critical or who may be covered by the Equality Act but otherwise DWP appears determined to rigidly enforce daily attendance at the hubs.
PCS utterly condemns DWP for proceeding with these office closures. While we welcome the handful of decisions not to close sites, it is clear that DWP intends to force through the vast majority putting our members’ jobs at risk and devastating the job centre network and services we provide.
The GEC is determined to work with branches and members to continue to fight these closures. Already members in Sheffield have taken six days of action against the closures and the GEC will work with all branches, and members, who want to fight to retain their offices.
PCS will be maximising the political pressure on the government to think again about these closures. We know that many MPs support our campaign to keep the offices open and with the government already weak following the general election, we will seek to exert even more pressure using any means necessary. The GEC is determined to continue to challenge these office closures and will work with branches in the weeks ahead to co-ordinate our response. An emergency GEC will be held as soon as possible