Benefit Centre closure shock

ARBROATH received a major jobs blow on Friday when the Department of Work and Pensions revealed that the Arbroath Benefit Centre at the bottom of Grant Road is to close.

A meeting was held with staff on Friday morning when they were told of the decision - as part of the UK government’s ‘Jobcentre Plus transformation’ programme and given options for their future employment.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “We can’t afford to carry on paying for buildings which aren’t fully used.

“Frontline Jobcentre Plus services aren’t impacted by this and we’ve made sure that all the staff affected have the option of moving elsewhere in the organisation.

“In tough financial times we have to operate as efficiently as possible.”

Angus MP Mike Weir said it will be a “severe blow” to Arbroath. He revealed that he had spoken directly to the employment Minister Chris Grayling on the announcement

Mr Weir went on: “Clearly my first thoughts are with the employees and their families at this difficult time.

“The benefit centre currently employs 76 people, and the loss of these jobs in the town will be a severe blow.

“The Minister has stated that the department intend to redeploy a large part of the staff to Dundee and will also seek to offer jobs in other areas to as many of the remainder as possible. Nonetheless, the loss of these jobs will be a severe blow to Arbroath.”

He continued: “This is just the beginning of the cuts to public sector staff that has been signalled by the UK government. As around one third of those in employment in Angus work in the public sector this will have a severe impact on our local economy.”

Angus South MSP Graeme Dey added: “While the Scottish Government is doing all it can to protect employment levels in Scotland the actions of the UK government will lead to increasing unemployment.

“This is not the way to get the country out of recession and betrays the Tories’ traditional antipathy to the public sector.

“This news undoubtedly will be a blow to the local economy.”

 A spokesperson for Angus Council stated: “It is unfortunate that the Department of Work and Pensions office in Abroath is closing although we understand that the staff have been given the opportunity to relocate to Dundee or Aberdeen.

“However, the closure of this office will have a knock-on impact on Arbroath town centre  business.”

Councillor Jim Millar commented: “Clearly this is a huge disappointment, and although many of the staff will still retain their jobs, it does appear that some will be made redundant.

“I am deeply concerned, not only for those who face redundancy, but I am also concerned that people, especially vulnerable people, may find it difficult to access the services and support that they need. Personally, I think this is very much the wrong decision.”

Councillor Alex King said: “The closure of the Benefits Office in Arbroath is yet another body blow to employment opportunities in the town.

“No clear reasons have been given for the closure other than that the office was not fully utilised.

“The fact that the staff are not being paid off but are being given the opportunity to take up similar posts elsewhere would seem to indicate that there is no reduction in workload.

“The question has to be asked why, if the Arbroath office was not being fully utilised staff from other areas with fuller employment were not asked to transfer to the Arbroath office.”

He went on: “The effect on employment is not just the loss of the jobs of the staff employed in the Arbroath office, it is also the knock on effect of the loss of job opportunities for clerical workers in the future and also the loss of the purchasing power as the staff who used to work in Arbroath cease to shop in Arbroath.”