The UK employment minister is to face questions this week over the closure of 20 Jobcentres and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) offices across Scotland, which critics claim will leave job seekers in rural areas without support.
Damian Hinds has been called before the Scottish Affairs Committee after a further seven closures were announced on top of 13 already proposed, eight of those in Glasgow alone.
Unions say plans to close one in ten DWP sites across the UK will result in the loss of thousands of jobs.
Pete Wishart, the SNP committee convener, said he would demand assurances about redundancies. “Now that these plans seem to have been extended to the rest of Scotland and the UK the issue has become even more pressing,” Wishart said. “Parliament has been told that this would not result in any redundancies in Glasgow. That promise has not been extended to the wider closures.”
Wishart said the committee would ask for detail from Hinds on consultation to determine the impact on job seekers.
Currently the DWP is only required to consult on Jobcentre closures when the nearest service is more than three miles away. Officials are seeking views on the proposed closure of Broxburn Jobcentre, which will force job seekers to travel to Livingston. Consultations on three closures in Glasgow ran until the end of last month.
“If closures in Glasgow are replicated throughout the country, many rural areas will have no access to face-to-face support at all,” Wishart said. “The minister must demonstrate that the support will be there or reconsider his plans.”
Another committee member, Labour MP Ian Murray, said the closures were “completely counterproductive”. He said: “Damian Hinds has to explain the perverse logic of the Tory government closing down Jobcentres in some of the most deprived parts of Scotland. This plan will not make it any easier to help people into work and will force extra travel costs on some of our poorest.”
A DWP spokesman said the move would save millions of pounds and it was getting rid of “out of date building contracts that mean 20 per cent of our office space is under-used”.