Glasgow & West Scotland

Half Glasgow's Jobcentre Plus services to close under DWP plans

Jobcentre Plus Image copyright PA

Benefit claimants in Glasgow may have to travel further for employment services under UK government plans to close half the city's 16 job centres.

The Scottish National Party described the proposal as "morally outrageous".

It said those from the poorest areas would face higher travel and phone costs, making it harder to seek work.

The Department for Work and Pensions said the closures would save public money and reflected an increase in use of online and telephone services.

Under the plans, there would be no job losses among Jobcentre Plus staff, while claimants would not have to travel further than four miles or 40 minutes.

Denise Horsfall, DWP work services director for Scotland, said it was now easier for claimants to access Jobcentre services "whether that be in person, online or over phone".

"By bringing together a number of neighbouring jobcentres we're continuing to modernise our operations while ensuring that our premises provide best value to the taxpayer," she said.

The DWP said there would be a public consultation in areas where customers had to travel more than three miles or more than 20 minutes.

SNP Trade Unions spokesman Chris Stephens MP said the closures would affect about 68,000 people in receipt of Jobseeker's Allowance, Employment Support Allowance and Universal Credit.

"Given the brutal sanctions regime this will mean that the numbers facing sanctions will undoubtedly increase," he said.

He claimed Jobcentre closures costs would be placed on the "people it should be assisting - and those already on low incomes" through increased travel costs and reliance on "expensive" 0345 numbers.

He added: "These plans make Glasgow the guinea pig, as I fear the closures announced will be used as a template for further closures across Scotland and the UK."

A DWP spokeswoman said: "Claimants can phone for free using 0800 numbers, and 0345 numbers are charged at local rates.

"The relocations are part of a programme looking at the entire estate across the UK.

"In other parts of the country, some Jobcentres have already moved."

'Disproportionate cut'

Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie MSP said the UK government seemed to be "going out of its way to make the prospect of finding employment even more difficult".

"Moving these centres further away from the people they serve in Glasgow will do nothing to reduce unemployment in the city," he said.

At parliamentary questions, SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson MP asked why the UK government was planning to make a "disproportionate" amount of the cuts in Glasgow, when the overall plan across the UK was to cut the estate by 20%.

Leader of the House David Lidington - who was filling in for Prime Minister Theresa May - said the focus should not be the number of offices, "but about how accessible the offices and services continue to be to the people who need them".

Citizens Advice Scotland also raised concerns about the proposals, and said its research suggested a third of Scottish CAB clients were unable to use a computer due to lack of access or skills.

It said travel could also be difficult for some people due to sickness, disability, cost or availability.

A final decision on the plans is expected to be made within six months, with a view to completion by 31 March 2018.

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