They work for you
I welcomed the opportunity in the Scottish Parliament last week to discuss the future of the 16 Jobcentre Plus (JCP) offices across the Glasgow region, including the proposal to roll Cambuslang’s job centre into Rutherglen’s.
I have a number of concerns about these proposals.
First, process. DWP rules mean that only three of the eight proposed closures in Glasgow are subject to consultation. In my view, all eight proposed closures should be put out to public consultation, including the proposal to close Cambuslang JCP and to merge its services with Rutherglen.
The context in which the DWP’s proposals have come about does, however, need to be understood.
First, use of Glasgow’s job centres has diminished considerably in recent years, reflecting the rise in employment and the fall in the number of claimants. Indeed, the claimant count in the UK is now lower than it has been since the mid 1970s.
Since the Conservatives came to power in 2010 the claimant count in Glasgow has fallen by 44 per cent. This is terrific news—but it does mean that it is rational to keep our JCP provision under review.
Two months ago, the all-party House of Commons work and pensions committee produced a report recognising this. The report was supported by MPs from all parties, including the SNP’s Mhairi Black.
We have to recognise, too, that the work undertaken by job centres is changing. Increasingly, employers are using job centres to recruit new staff. This is much easier for JCPs to organise in a smaller number of larger “hubs” than it is in a larger number of smaller JCP premises.
Across Glasgow, some of our smaller job centres are clearly under-used. Anniesland JCP, for example, operates at the moment at only one-third capacity.
So there is clearly a case for reviewing JCP provision across the city. And it is important to understand that what is under review is the number of job centre premises, not the range of services that job centres perform.
Indeed, DWP’s aspiration is that a reduced number of JCP premises will lead to an enhanced level of service for those who rely on out-of-work benefits.
For the future, what I would like to see is more use of co-location, placing the DWP’s Jobcentre services in the same premises, for example, as the Scottish Government’s skills development services.
This requires the UK and Scottish Governments to work more closely together, and this is what I will be pressing both the SNP and the UK’s DWP ministers to get on with.