January 2017: Glasgow Job Centres to be Cut by Half
The Tory party are well versed in the practice of buying the votes of the electorate, usually within 3-6 months of an election. Conversely they are also expert in dealing negative voters out of any initiative which would improve their well-being and when the occasion requires it they have been known for trialling new systems of taxation or potential revenue savings in these same areas. The “Poll Tax” is one such example.
So it was no great surprise to long suffering Scots when, with no prior briefing of the Scottish government, the Tory government in Westminster announced an immediate cull in the number of Job Centre’s in the UK by 20%.
Adding insult to injury the “try before you buy” city singled out for the pilot scheme was Glasgow. The DWP announcement further stated that the Job Centre real estate would be reduced by 50% (from 16 centre’s to 8) well in excess of the 20% target for the UK.
The Scottish press were quick to expose the matter to the attention of the public believing the decision to be “wrong headed” in light of many thousands of distressing stories of sick and disabled people having their benefits sanctioned due to being late or unable to attend Job Centre appointments (from a choice of the existing 16 job Centre’s). A system change requiring the same group of people to travel much greater distances vastly increases the risk of benefit sanctions well beyond that acceptable to a decent caring society
Questioned, in Westminster about the change Mundell, the Scottish Secretary said it was the Tory government’s intention that the level of service provision to Scot’s in receipt of welfare benefits should not be adversely affected. But until the trial scheme is complete and data is available there might be some inconvenience.
So there we have it. The Tories are dead set on introducing major change without any idea of the impact on the electorate. Shades of the Poll Tax debacle.
It was suggested to the DWP that benefit claimants or applicants were invariably low paid or skint and getting to a more widely dispersed job centre provision might make it impossible for people to to get to them. In reply the DWP suggested that applicants could contact them by telephone or through the internet instead. A laughable proposal since establishing a 0345 response with the DWP takes a very long time, which in turn renders the cost of a call extortionately high and way beyond the means of most.
The SNP response to Mundell made clear their anger and strong opposition to the closure plans. And the SNP led debates at Westminster and at Holyrood detailing the many flaws in the proposals.
In addition, SNP politicians in Glasgow spearheaded a cross party campaign to keep the job centres open. To facilitate the campaign a letter was circulated seeking the support and signatures of all Glasgow MP’s, MSP’s, the Glasgow City Council leader and the Scottish Secretary, Mundell,
The letter was signed promptly by all SNP MP’s and MSP’s, Four labour MSP’s, Patrick Harvie of the green party, Frank McAveety and the Council’s SNP opposition leader Susan Aitken.
Adam Tomkins and Annie Wells Tory Party (List) MSP’s refused to sign the letter or support the campaign. Mundell didn’t even respond.
There is also the issue about the selection of Glasgow as a guinea pig by the Westminster government. To date there have been no other closure announcements in the UK. There is also the DWP statement that planning is for a 20% closure programme and Glasgow is to lose 50% of it’s job centre’s.
February 2017: Job Centre Cuts in Scotland Increased to at least Twenty Three
Scotland will see 23 job centre branches close in the latest DWP proposals including the eight closures in Glasgow announced last month. Staff jobs are under threat as the department of Work and Pensions has refused to reassure staff about their future.
The announcement has been widely criticised by political parties in Scotland, and the Minister for Employability and Training Jamie Hepburn said: “I am deeply concerned about the closure of yet more Job centre Plus offices in Scotland and the potential impact these will have on people looking for support to find a job, and how people in communities across Scotland will be able to access their local Job centre Plus. This announcement has been shambolically handled today by the UK Government who are yet again ignoring the needs of people in Scotland. Not only have they announced these closures without any advance consultation with the communities who will be affected, they also bypassed the Scottish Government, going against the principles of the Smith Agreement.”
Comment: The very last sentence of the final paragraph carries the message for all Scots. Westminster governments will continue to treat Scotland with contempt for as long as we allow it. A yes vote in any future independence referendum will allow Scotland’s return to the world as a free nation from which it should have never been removed.