Today, I met with Department of Work and Pension (DWP) management to discuss the proposed closure of Port Glasgow jobcentre.
In January, the Minister for Employment, Damien Hinds MP announced proposal to relocate the Jobcentre at 6 Scarlow Street, Port Glasgow, PA14 5EY to Greenock, 99 Dalrymple Street, Greenock, PA15 1QL.
I recently led an Urgent Question, in the House of Commons, to ask the UK Government to set out their proposals and why Port Glasgow jobcentre is to close. Alongside this, I raised a number of written parliamentary questions on the subject.
The plans to cut the number of jobcentres across Scotland, including in Inverclyde, will have a profound impact on many individuals and households.
The lack of consultation on the proposed closures is worrying and I have a number of concerns, for example, the increased distance individuals will have to travel to attend a jobcentre and also whether the one to one interaction between staff and service user will continue.
Having met with the PCS Union, last week, I know they are frustrated with the lack of information disseminating from the UK Government. Also, they have real concerns regarding what happens to all the staff in the Port Glasgow office, as no voluntary redundancy will be offered.
I had a productive meeting with DWP management where I highlighted my concerns and urged them to fully support all staff affected, while also providing the necessary welfare support to customers.
On a near daily basis my office is being contacted by constituents who are deeply frustrated with the broadband speeds they are receiving. Their concerns showcase a perceived lack of support from the deliverer of broadband, that is not readily solving the issue.
The ‘Better Broadband Scheme’ will provide a grant of up to £350 to help install broadband where you live and work. You will be able to choose from a range of services from the registered providers, including options that provide speeds significantly greater than 2Mbps.
I believe more needs to be done to improve broadband access and speeds for people in Inverclyde.
Therefore, the Better Broadband Scheme will assist those with speeds at less than 2 Mb per second and I would encourage constituents to check this out.
Department of Culture website link – http://basicbroadbandchecker.culture.gov.uk/
Regular readers will be glad to know that through the power of thought I managed to clear London of fog and so this week’s flight was on time. My first meeting was with a researcher to commission work on the Nordic model for prostitution. This was followed up with a meeting with a constituent who had written to me regarding issues with HMRC. As he was in London it made sense to meet there. I had already planned to attend a one to one with Damien Hinds MP (Minister for Work and Pensions) but the announcement of the jobcentre closure in Port Glasgow brought a new impetus to the meeting. Interestingly I had put in for an Urgent Question on jobcentre closures and had been granted one for 15:30. Disappointingly it was not Damian Hinds who came to the chamber to answer my question and his replacement Caroline Nokes refused to say why no consultation had been done prior to announcing the closure. She also couldn’t say if a full quality assessment has been done.
I also attended questions to the Secretary of State for Defence, where Michael Fallon is master at saying nothing. Maybe that’s why he got the job.
I am a member of the All-party Parliamentary Group on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals and on Tuesday we published our report “Assessing the Impact”. During the process we took evidence from gambling addicts, bookmakers, gambling support groups, government ministers and academics. Hopefully the industry and government will take notice. I spoke in a Westminster Hall debate on immigration rules for spouses and partners. I then pursued more research on Universal Basic Income and drug reform. The afternoon was split between a meeting with Ofcom about broadband access and speeds and a meeting with a company that provide satellite solutions for broadband. In the evening I met up with colleagues to discuss a strategy around the impending jobcentre closures.
My first meeting of the day was with a representative of ‘Dignity in Dying’. It’s a complex and often emotional discussion that is not currently at the forefront of the political agenda but it is one of those topics that goes round in a cycle and will come back again. It’s always good to keep up to date and keep learning. Prime Minister’s Questions is the usual nightmare for the Labour Party and their benches are getting thinner week by week. Angus Robertson questions the PM on the feasibility of a soft border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Apparently she sees no issue with this. That’s good to know going forward.
It’s World Cancer Day today and they organise a very informative session covering a range of cancers. There are breast cancer awareness seminars coming to Inverclyde soon and I shall be promoting those in the near future. Later I have a meeting with GiveDirectly. They are an organisation that raises money and cuts out the middle men by funding people directly. They have been heavily involved in funding Universal Basic Income schemes and were keen to learn about a pilot project in Scotland. It’s a later night in the chamber than was expected as we are voting on triggering Article 50.
I catch an early flight home and spend the day catching up on casework and organising Friday’s local surgeries. Unfortunately these days that involves liaising with the local police force to ensure my team’s personal safety. In the evening I attended a drug rehabilitation event in the Centre for Contemporary Arts on Sauchiehall Street Glasgow. It’s run by Recovering Justice and features speakers from Anyone’s Child, LEAP, Reform and Transform. It’s a hugely interesting evening and as these evenings often do I ended up holding an impromptu meeting with representatives from the charity Scot-Pep. It’s a challenging encounter but one we plan to repeat.
Surgeries in Kilmacolm and Port Glasgow followed by a quick photo with Tommy (the clown) Armstrong to help highlight the fabulous work he does raising money for charity. Then it’s off to the bingo at Mecca followed by Greenock surgeries. Time for a meeting with the PCS unions about the planned closure of the jobcentre in Port Glasgow and end the day with surgeries in Inverkip.
Today is World Cancer Day.
Cancer Research UK, Breast Cancer Care, Breast Cancer Now, CLIC Sargent, Anthony Nolan, Bowel Cancer UK and Marie Curie are calling on people across Inverclyde and Scotland to show their support by wearing a Unity Band or donating
By joining forces, the charities will make a bigger impact in transforming the lives of millions who are affected by cancer.
The Unity Bands are made of two parts, knotted together, to symbolise strength in unity and the power of what can be achieved when people join forces.
The bands are available from each charity on their websites, shops and other retail outlets for a suggested donation of £2. All money raised from the Unity Bands will go towards the charities individual work.
One in two people born in the UK will develop cancer at some point in their lifetime.
Whatever your motivation – to remember a loved one, celebrate people who have overcome the disease, or to rally in support of those going through treatment – World Cancer Day is a chance to get involved and transform the lives of millions of people who are affected by cancer.
Cancer Research UK’s Unity Bands are available in all Cancer Research UK stores and online at www.cruk.org/worldcancerday for a suggested donation of £2.
Terrible news this week that the jobcentre in Port Glasgow is to close. This leaves us with only one in Inverclyde. I have been assured all 28 staff will be relocated to Greenock which although not ideal is still good news. But it’s blindingly obvious that the service users will have to travel further. If a DWP office is more than three miles from the office taking up the workload then a consultation must take place before it is closed. Her majesty’s government tell me the Port office is 2.8 miles from the Greenock one. I shall be measuring that.
In another exhibition of bad judgment the Prime Minister has rushed to pay homage to President Trump. Holding hands and whispering sweet nothings. And as sweetener he has been invited to meet the Queen. Of course as the democratically elected president he must be afforded his place but the unedifying position of being a poodle to the USA has not done the UK any good in the eyes of our European allies. Brexit just got even harder.
Those of you who scrutinise the goings on at Westminster must have been appalled at the treatment given to SNP MPs during Tuesdays Brexit debate. Many SNP MPs sat through eleven hours of debate, waiting for their turn to speak and were, once again, ignored until the final hour when 7 SNPs were called and their speaking time was reduced to 4 minutes. This process is seriously flawed and undermines the voice of the democratically elected representatives of the citizens of Scotland.
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, if he will confirm that no compulsory redundancies will result from the closure of Port Glasgow Jobcentre. (62110)
Tabled on: 27 January 2017
We do not anticipate any compulsory redundancies as a result of merging staff and services from Port Glasgow into Greenock Jobcentre.
The answer was submitted on 03 Feb 2017 at 11:44.
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what criteria were used to select Port Glasgow Jobcentre for closure. (62111)
Tabled on: 27 January 2017
The Department has sought to merge together multiple sites in close proximity. Merging the staff and services from Port Glasgow into Greenock Jobcentre maximises use of space and offers good value for money. The merge would not be viable in reverse.
The answer was submitted on 03 Feb 2017 at 11:35.
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what estimate he has made of the cost of relocating staff and resources from Port Glasgow Jobcentre. (62109)
Tabled on: 27 January 2017
We are not yet in a position to share an estimated figure due to commercial confidentiality pending completion of legal processes. We expect to make savings by merging the two offices through reduced running costs and making best use of both office space available and taxpayer’s money. Where we are proposing changes to our estate, staff 1-2-1’s are underway to assess impact on individuals and potential costs.
The answer was submitted on 02 Feb 2017 at 16:26.