This morning I have been informed of proposals by the UK Minister for Employment to close the Job Centre in Port Glasgow.
The DWP has been guilty of taking a callous and ideological approach to welfare since the Tories took office in 2010, and shows no signs of letting up. 8 of Glasgow’s 16 job centres are facing the prospect of being cut, and now Inverclyde is to suffer as part of a nationwide cull.
Local job centres provide a vital service to those looking for work. It is completely unacceptable that Inverclyde, with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, is set to be one of the first parts of the UK to have job centre closures imposed on it. This will have a damaging impact on people in Inverclyde, resulting in already hard-up people being forced to travel further at a higher cost in order to access vital job searching services. The Tory government should be prioritising their support for getting people back into work – not making foolish closures to vital front line services.
The Tory government has done absolutely nothing to mitigate our fears since the planned cuts were announced. They have not provided any details of the number of people to be affected, and having failed to carry out any kind of equality impact assessment to see how groups such as single parents, carers or those with disabilities would be impacted by the closures. These closures will hit vulnerable people who struggle to access services the hardest – with increased transport costs and additional time taken to travel, particularly those required to register daily or weekly. That increases the threat of sanctions, which is a serious concern.
It is clear that the decision is being driven by the UK government’s ideological obsession with austerity – and it is deeply concerning that these closures represent just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Tory cuts. And it is the SNP who are standing up to these cuts at both Holyrood, Westminster, and through the Scottish Government
I plan to do everything in my power, with support from the Scottish Government, to fight these cuts. I hope the Scottish Conservative MSPs join these efforts and take up the fight with their colleagues at Westminster rather than sitting back and letting their constituents suffer. Will they stand up for their constituents and fight to stop the job centre closures, or will they simply go along with what their bosses at Westminster decree?
It is evidently clear that we are being dragged back to the bad old days of Tory governments – with no mandate north of the border – treating Scotland as a guinea pig for their unpopular policies and doing anything they want.
But there is also a wider issue here. If Mr Mundell has – as is evident – done so little to fight Scotland’s corner on the issue of job centre closures, then what hope do we have that he has done anything behind the scenes to keep Scotland in the single market as part of the Brexit negotiations?
The Scottish Secretary should be fighting for Scotland’s interests in Cabinet – not the other way around – and if Mr Mundell is unwilling to do that, then you have to wonder what the point is in there being a Scottish Secretary.