New Private Funded DWP HQ in Wales gets Recommended despite Union Job Fears

Planning has recommended for a massive new back-office HQ for the Department for Work and Pensions – DWP in the welsh town of Rhondda Cynon Taff. You’d wonder were they’re getting the money when they are claiming they need to making savings. Well in true Tory fashion like over £1 billion other government assets it is “forward funded”, (ie;rent due), by a private firm.

Rhondda DWP HQ
Impression of the new back-office HQ – (DWP)

Rhondda Cynon Taff Council’s planning officers have recommended that a new office for DWP back office operations goes ahead.

The 3 acre site which the DWP hopes to open by 2021 would house it’s back-office operations such as those for processing benefit claims and appeals. It is “claimed” that the new HQ will provide 1500 jobs to the area, by providing they mean relocating other staff.

Universal Credit from a DWP Agent’s Perspective – The First Assessment Period – READ MORE of Part One of Bayard’s exposé

Over half of staff will be unable to relocate

Image result for PCS union

Despite the The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union claiming it will be “devastating” for staff currently working at other offices across the area the DWP have ploughed ahead.

The union has claimed that over half of the staff will be unable to relocate especially those with disabilities or caring responsibilities.

The irony here is that this will force them onto Universal Credit should they be unable to move. Something I’m sure will strike fear into their hearts if they really know what it’s like.

PCS Wales Chair Katrine Williams told the BBC that the concentration of civil service work into “huge hubs” was “devastating jobs in local communities across the UK”.

“There is no understanding of the public transport issues involved in travelling across the valleys, or the congestion problems,” she added.

“Our members have decades of experience in delivering benefits and services to pensioners, the unemployed and sick and disabled claimants.

“DWP management are apparently prepared to throw this expertise away, given that up to half the staff would be unable to move with the work.”

For example:

If you currently live in Merthyr Tydfil and want to make it for a 9AM start you’ll have to leave at 6.13AM and take a train for 1 hour and 45 minutes with one change. At the end you’ll have a fair walk to the new office.

A season ticket for this journey would be approximately £532 according to National Rails season ticket calculator.

The DWP response to this was that the new location is “strategically placed to take full advantage of improvements through the Welsh Government’s public transport enhancements”.

Basically they are laying the foundations to blame the Welsh government if it doesn’t work out for staff.

Local communities will be affected

The Department previously announced that their offices in Cardiff, Newport, Merthyr Tydfil, Cwmbran and Caerphilly will close once the new hub is open.

Gerald Jones Labour MP
Labour MPGerald Jones

These five local communities will see a negative effect on their economy as some staff will inevitably relocate to the be closer to the new building. A drop in footfall in local shops from staff calling in before and after work would also likely occur.

Gerald Jones the Labour MP for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, has said that despite the approval he will fight for the 250 jobs in the Merthyr office.

“Moving these jobs out of the town centre makes no sense

The Welsh Government are continuing to build Merthyr Tydfil as an economic hub in the valleys but the Department of Work and Pensions moving jobs out of the town would weaken that cause.”

Who’s paying for it though?

Related image

You might ask but they’re cutting benefits so how can they afford this? Well the answer to that question is; they can’t.

The building is being forward funded by firm Legal and General. Once the building is complete they will take full ownership and the government will pay a rental charge which has yet to be disclosed.

What I do find annoying is that this company have control of over £1 billion of government assets. When talking about gaining it’s seventh government hub, Tom Roberts the Head of strategic investments at Legal & General said;

 “This deal is the latest in a line of successful acquisitions of such Government backed investments which have now surpassed the £1bn mark in the last year…”

This was in 2017 they passed the £1 billion mark and they’ve since gained another two big government hubs. How much rent is being charged for these buildings?

It’s worthy to note that taxpayers money is also paid to Legal & General by the BBC, for rent of their HQ in Salford.

Conclusion

The Tories are always claiming they need to make savings, they’ve cut benefits for disabled people and are always looking to do more. Their flagship benefit Universal Credit is reported not to be making the savings expected and the National Audit Office – NAO said; “it is uncertain it ever will.”

Foodbank use is on the rise across the country with a rise on average of 13% across the UK.

Instead of spending to fix the issues they already have and help the over 4 million people who used foodbanks last year, they’re giving it to private firms so they can have swanky new offices.7

It’s typical with this government that big business will benefit for this while joe public like me and you will suffer when they claim they need to make cuts.

Alex Tiffin

Speaking of Foodbanks I need your help

The summer holidays has placed unprecedented pressure on foodbanks with what is known as “Holiday Hunger.” Children who usually rely on free school meals and school breakfast clubs now don’t have that luxury.

Many parent are now finding they cannot afford to feed their children and are turning to foodbanks.

I have started a petition calling on the government to provide immediate emergency funding for UK foodbanks. We cannot let the public do what the Tories should have done years ago.

You can sign the petition by following this link;

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/the-government-must-provide-emergency-funding-to-foodbanks

Please share it with as many people as you can as every signature really does count.

@RespectIsVital on Twitter

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