DWP perm sec Robert Devereux defends Jobcentre closure plan: "I'm not intending to lose staff in this process"

Written by Matt Foster on 7 February 2017 in News

Department for Work and Pensions' top official tells MPs that his department "can't sit on an estate that's too big and not do something about it"

Department for Work and Pensions permanent secretary Sir Robert Devereux has sought to reassure MPs about the DWP's looming programme of Jobcentre closures, amid signs that the plans could face stiff political opposition.

The DWP confirmed last month that it is to close more than 130 Jobcentre and back office sites as part of efforts to cut the size of its estate by 20%. The programme will include merging smaller Jobcentres with larger sites, and co-locating some offices with existing local authority services.

But the plans were the subject of a stormy debate in the House of Commons last week, with MPs from across the political spectrum, including Conservatives, warning that they risked reducing access to vital employment services.

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Scottish National Party MP Ronnie Cowan – whose Inverclyde constituency will be affected by the proposed closures – took the opportunity to press the DWP's top official on the closure programme during a heading of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee on Tuesday.

Responding, Devereux pointed out that the DWP's current estates contracts, which are set to expire shortly, had been signed when the department – which now has around 83,000 full-time staff – had been far larger in size.

"When I first came to the department in the mid-90s we had 165,000 staff and a contract that had already been running for buildings for ten years," he explained.

"That contract runs out now and we think that by having fewer buildings, which we've just announced, we will save on average £180m every single year for a decade – that's £1.8bn to you and me."

The DWP chief said the move to shutter Jobcentres and back office sites was "not about losing any staff", echoing minister Caroline Nokes' vow last week that the "vast majority" of DWP employees will be given the option to relocate or take on alternative roles.

"I'm not intending to lose staff in this process," Devereux told the committee. "I'm simply trying to make sure I've got the right amount of carpets to accommodate staff, and to have the right amount of front-facing retail presence."

He added: "We're not in the business of trying to make life more difficult for anybody. But you know, you can't sit on an estate that's too big and not do something about it.

"We have a chance to do it now as the 20 year contract runs out. It's a perfectly rational thing to do and ministers are aware of it, I've done a lot of the detail on it. I've stood in the offices in Scotland, some of which are closing, and explained the position and colleagues understand that too."

Figures published last week by the Cabinet Office show that the Department for Work and Pensions remains the government ministry with the largest estate, holding some 1.5 million sqm of office space.

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Julie wilson (not verified)

Submitted on 7 February, 2017 - 20:05
Complete idiot has he ever tried talking to a computer

Julie wilson (not verified)

Submitted on 7 February, 2017 - 20:04
Complete idiot!!!

edsaboy (not verified)

Submitted on 8 February, 2017 - 16:41
The whole lot should close . Would the 72000 employed by the Dwp like no wages at the end of the month . No access to support, this is one of the most serious issues in the uk . £120 per work capability assessment. Billions blown £2.1 for toxic buildings. The failing jobcentre plus . You don't have a clue .

Simon King (not verified)

Submitted on 8 February, 2017 - 22:45
The Conservatives have a policy that they have found now works! There have been little or no demonstrations! There has been no mass disturbances or riots! There has been nothing, not even a mumour, as tens of thousands of our fellow citizens, and driven to suicide, because of the most evil of policies of the guise of 'welfare reforms', of letting people starve to death!!! We have now given the Tories a green light, to fulfil their ultimate goal, of destroying the welfare state completely, as they KNOW the British people are too gutless to fight back, even though we KNOW their welfare policy, has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with finding people jobs, but EVERYTHING to do with a policy of denying people their FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT of unemployment benefits and will continue with a policy that is nothing more, than in breach of 11 counts of the Universal Convention of Human Rights, where we ordinary people, have EVERY RIGHT, under Articles 2 & 4 of the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, to bring charges against this, the most wretched and heinous of governments - ever!!! They know the working class will do nothing! They know the union's will do nothing! They have seen that the subservient working classes, have not taken to the street as with the Poll Tax, and can therefore continue a policy of let the lower classes starve to death! It's truly shocking, that we just sit back, and do nothing, as this truly evil Conservative government, carries on with their secret Genocide policy, even though they have been reprimanded by the United Nations! Tories feel they are invincible to do just anything the like, including mass murder! We criticise the French, but at least they said enough is enough hundreds of years ago, who (even though it was hundreds of years ago), they clearly had more backbone than the British in 2017!!! And until the British working people get a backbone to say enough, this policy of mass murder will continue! I suppose all we'll get from working class people who in the near future, is a jobs a job as they build the gas chambers so as to fulfil the Tories Final Solution policy for the poor, the sick and the vulnerable! The gutless, spineless people of this nation makes me ashamed to be British!!!!

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