Ahead of a rally tomorrow (25 August) PCS members at the DWP benefits centre in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire describe how the planned closure of their office will affect their community
With the announcement back in January that the Coatbridge DWP office was to close came shock, confusion and resentment. Staff found it hard to believe that the government, in their wisdom, decided to put up the shutters on a building that has played an important part within the DWP and has also been a cornerstone of the Coatbridge community.
When the lights go out and the doors are locked for the final time, sometime in January 2018, the impact of the closure will hit the main street hard. Over the last 30 years the staff have forged a bond with local Coatbridge businesses. From butchers to bakeries, from fishmongers to florists, they will all feel the after-effects of the diminished footfall that regularly graced their shop floors throughout the working week. Our PCS representatives asked staff within the office to keep their receipts of money spent in these businesses and from the ones gathered we calculated that approximately £4,000 a week is spent on Coatbridge main street. The reality is that it is probably much higher than that.
There is also a strong sense of community within the office, a sense of belonging, as staff from all over the Lanarkshire area have commuted here to knuckle down and provide a fantastic service to claimants and customers throughout the years. The staff in the office has given back to the community too, raising thousands of pounds for charity and forming a strong bond with the local foodbank – a bond that will soon be broken and will be sorely missed.
This sense of community will change as a third of staff will move into offices at Atlantic Quay in Glasgow, with the majority of the remaining staff moving to Motherwell pension centre. There is also a handful of staff who face an uncertain future only due to the fact that they are unable to travel to the location the department has set for them. The staff do not deserve this.
So as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn delivers his speech outside The Quadrant at 1pm tomorrow, protesting this closure and many others throughout the country, his words will sadly echo throughout the empty shops within the shopping centre, which stands as a twisted monument to austerity and how it is affecting local towns and their communities.
How you can help
- Keep up to date with the campaign against DWP closures
- Send messages of support to Leeds@pcs.org.uk
- Make a donation to our fighting fund to support striking members online or by cheque to PCS DWP Group, 3rd Floor, Town Centre House, Merrion Centre, Leeds LS2 8LY.