Julie James, Minister for Skills and Science
This Written Statement provides an update on Wednesday’s announcement by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on the closure of the Llanelli Benefit Centre, Porth Debt Centre and Mountain Ash, Pyle and Tredegar Job Centres and the relocation of staff.
This is devastating news for the workers and their families. I understand that 150 staff at Llanelli will be redeployed. 93 staff at Porth Debt Centre will be relocated to space in Tonypandy Job Centre rather than Caerphilly, as originally proposed, which is a welcome move. DWP have said that by 2021 they will open a large modern building north of Cardiff where they can merge 5 smaller nearby processing centres, to grow and expand their services and create employment in the area.
DWP have also decided, following a public consultation, that services and staff for Mountain Ash Job Centre will relocate to Aberdare Job Centre, and services and staff for Pyle Job Centre will relocate to Porthcawl Job Centre. DWP will also be relocating staff and services for Tredegar Job Centre to Ebbw Vale.
I spoke to Damian Hinds MP, Minister for Employment on Wednesday to express my profound concern at the decision to close these benefit offices and Job Centres and to relocate jobs. I stressed that we are extremely disappointed that DWP Ministers did not feel it appropriate to contact us first to seek alternative solutions prior to making their final decision.
I urged the need for us to work closely together going forward to ensure that anyone displaced who cannot relocate is supported, and I will be meeting with the Minister for Employment next Thursday.
We understand that DWP are working to ensure that there are no job losses for staff resulting from the relocation, and staff will be offered alternative roles if relocation is not an option. We are seeking urgent clarification from the DWP on the details for affected offices and Job Centres, including the timing for closures.
We know that safe, secure employment is key to better health and better life prospects and will do all that we can to support the DWP employees in Wales affected by this announcement. I can confirm that if anyone takes redundancy where offered, we will work with those affected to ensure that, where possible, they can access support from the ReAct Scheme.
We are agreed as a government that, through utilising public procurement in a more creative and joined up way, we can support our communities to be more resilient in the face of the economic challenges by creating more sustainable local and regional economies across Wales.
Through our Better Jobs Closer to Home programme we are working to ensure that the benefits of major investment are recycled back into Welsh communities to support local supply chains and stimulate investment in deprived communities. The Better Jobs initiative will pilot an approach that could help tackle poverty; develop skilled workers; deploy innovative procurement policy; and support businesses to grow by creating employment and training opportunities in areas of high economic deprivation.
Our Programme for Government ‘Taking Wales Forward’ includes a commitment to reshape employability support for job ready individuals, and those furthest from the labour market, to acquire the skills and experience to gain and maintain sustainable employment. Next week I will deliver a statement on Employability setting out our agenda to re-shape employability support for the economically inactive, and those in insecure employment. This agenda will be set out in an Employability Delivery Plan underpinned by a new employability offer that builds on the success of current programmes, such as, Jobs Growth Wales and ReAct. Wales will continue to have a well-established support infrastructure in place for individuals who are affected by redundancy.