A CABINET minister has denied that the DWP used google maps to identify jobcentres for closure in Glasgow, despite officials admitting it on more than one occasion.
Damian Green, work and Pensions Secretary told MP and MSPs that was not how the department operated and agreed it was not the right way to do business.
Mr Green was giving evidence to a special joint session of the Westminster and Holyrood Social Security committees in the House of Commons.
He was quizzed over the plans to shut half of Glasgow’s jobcentres and was asked about using google maps.
George Adam, Paisley SNP MSP asked about DWP officials using google maps to determine which offices should close and which remain open.
He said: “Surely that’s not the right way to do business?”
Mr Green replied: “It’s not and we don’t do it that way.”
However Denise Horsfall, Scotland work Director for the DWP who is in charge of the process to shut Jobcentres in Glasgow previously admitted they did.
She said in January in an interview with the Evening Times, when asked if the routes between centres had been tested by staff in person, Ms Horsfall said: “I would love to say I sent my team out but they have got other work to do. I did use maps and the traveline website.”
The House of Commons library also records Ms Horsfall and Neil Couling a fellow official in giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament social security committee stating: “In determining travelling distances, DWP had used Traveline and Google Maps.”
Mr Green was also challenged on the justifications given by the DWP for closing eight Jobcentres in the Glasgow area.
Pauline McNeill, Glasgow Labour MSP, asked Mr Green about his comments that more people were using services online and told him that the situation in Glasgow was not the same as in other cities.
She said: “Glasgow is one of the poorest cities in the UK with huge pockets of deprivation.
“One in four people do not have access to the internet. You cannot compare Glasgow to cities like Leeds without looking at levels of poverty.”
Rutherglen SNP MP, Margaret Ferrier, had told the Secretary of State, that Glasgow was being treated disproportionately with 50% of centres being closed compared to 20% across the UK.
Mr Green said that there was too much unused space and the tax payer had to get better value for money.”
The plan is for seven of the 14 Glasogw Jobcentres to close and also for Cambuslang to shut and services moved to Rutherglen.
The Evening Times Hands off Our Jobcentres campaign has called for the plans to be halted and Jobcentres to be retained in the communities where they are needed most. the campaign has attracted widespread support across political parties and from churches and trade unions.
I, Daniel Blake film director, Ken Loach also supported our call to stop the closures.
Mr Green said that the proposals for Glasgow were still under consideration.
He said: There is a consultation going on. We haven’t yet come to a final conclusion of what we are going to do in Glasgow. I would ask everyone to be patient.”
Evening Times – 21/03/17 – Stewart Paterson, Political Correspondent