COMMONS

Jobcentre Plus closures result of incoherent planning and need rethink

26 April 2017

Government plans to shut Jobcentre Plus offices in Glasgow, and throughout Scotland, showed a lack of clear planning and must be reviewed, says the report by the Scottish Affairs Committee.

Poorly thought out strategy caused needless uncertainty

A poorly thought out strategy of staggered closure announcements additionally caused needless uncertainty among staff and service users and must serve as a lesson for future announcements.

The expiration of the 20-year PFI contract, under which Jobcentre Plus premises were leased, provided an opportunity for a comprehensive review of how the service could be modernised, best suit the needs of users and provide value for money. Current proposals, that would involve the closure of eight offices in Glasgow alone, demonstrate a lack of strategic thinking and would not provide an adequate service.

Plans appear only to have considered which current sites were expendable and did not look at how a comprehensive service could be provided for an area. A 'holistic' approach would almost certainly indicate the need for new Jobcentres near transport hubs, however only closures of existing services have been proposed. The Government has to show more ambition and dexterity to create an effective Jobcentre network.

Full evaluation of Jobcentre provision in Glasgow must be carried out

A full and proper evaluation of Jobcentre Plus provision in Glasgow must be carried out. It must demonstrate a proper understanding of the geography and transport infrastructure in the city. Particular consideration should be given to a large central location that would allow the greatest number of people to access it, supported by smaller offices in areas with poor transport links.

The unnecessary uncertainty that this policy has placed on staff must be ended as soon as possible. A clear statement must be made about where people will be expected to relocate to keep their job. They need to work more closely with unions and staff to provide adequate support to those being asked to change roles or location as a result of the policy.

The impact of any closure must be fully understood before it is initiated. The effect on users, staff and the wider community needs to be fully understood, therefore a consultation must be run on the proposed changes as a whole, not just in the few cases were certain criteria are breached.

Chair's comment

Publishing the report, Committee Chair Pete Wishart commented:

"Nothing in this policy backs up the UK Government's insistence that it is a result of carefully thought out, long-term planning and not just an opportunistic cost cutting exercise. The end of the PFI contract could have allowed them to embark on a programme of meaningful change, should they have wished. They could almost have started with a clean state and asked what sort of Jobcentre provision would work best for each city or town. Instead they seem to have just looked at how many offices they could close down and how much money they could save.

Their treatment of staff, service users and colleagues in the Scottish Government fell short of what should be expected. When a staggered series of closure announcements begins with eight in one city, it is only going to create uncertainty and resentment. It is also a worrying sign that they did not feel it necessary to inform the Scottish Government. This must not be repeated as they look to build a working relationship on welfare powers.

Jobcentre Plus centres are there to serve their communities, when people are often at their most vulnerable, these proposals will fail to do this adequately. We urge the Government to look at this policy again and come back with a coherent solution that works for the people who use the service, as well as being value for money."

Further information

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