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Call for Dundee to claim jobs as the base for new welfare agency

Jenny Marra.
Jenny Marra.

Business, political and trade union leaders have united to call for Scotland’s new social security agency to be based in Dundee.

Such a move would bring hundreds of jobs to the city which has see its workforce hit with a series of hammer blows.

These include the likely loss of around 130 HMRC jobs under plans to shut Caledonian House. Concerns also remain that the shift of 650 staff at Sidlaw House to the Department of Work and Pensions will mean they are forced to leave or commute to the central belt.

But next year will see Scotland receive a host of new powers over welfare as a result of the passage of the Scotland Bill.

For the first time Holyrood will get the power over 15.3% of welfare benefit expenditure in Scotland, which includes payments to help the most vulnerable.

Labour MSP Jenny Marra has written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as part of a campaign to make sure that work comes to the city and her bid has been backed by the local Chamber of Commerce and the Trades Union Council.

In her letter, Ms Marra put forward Dundee’s case as having an experienced workforce with experience in the DWP, HMRC and managing changes in Universal Credit.

She wrote: “You will be aware of the competitive prices of commercial property in the city in comparison with the central belt and the huge impact that the siting of such a critical agency will have on our local economy and employment situation.

“Given the unenviable position Dundee has of having the most benefits sanctions in Scotland, your new agency, which you have said will put dignity and respect at the heart of the social security agenda, will benefit from the lived experience of many Dundonians who need the system to work better and meet their needs.”

Alison Henderson, chief executive of the Dundee and Angus Chamber of Commerce, praised work ongoing to review Dundee’s employability services and consider closer working between the DWP, council other welfare services.

The arrival of the new agency, she added, would further assist those ideas.

She said: “In amongst the partnership working that goes on in our city, something like these kind of jobs would fit very well into the community that exists in Dundee.”

Mike Arnott, secretary of the Dundee TUC, said: “Knowing what’s planned for the civil service jobs already in Dundee, this would be a saving grace.

“It would certainly blunt the impact. It’s really asking: ‘Can we have some jobs back please?’”

 

‘Something must be done’ — so do it

When was the last time we were able to write something positive about jobs for Dundee, writes Kieran Andrews, political editor.

There has been a steady drip, drip, drip of bad news with seemingly no weights capable of providing a counter balance.

The city is very much on the up in almost every way but the record on employment continues to pick the scabs of old and painful wounds.

At a jobs summit organised by The Courier earlier this year, 24 of Dundee’s biggest employers sat opposite UK and Scottish government ministers and agreed something must be done.

Here’s an opportunity. Dundee has the required skill set to house Scotland’s new social security agency thanks in no small part to a workforce currently under threat because of civil service reorganisation. It has the buildings capable of housing such an agency.

What a boost it would be for the city to be able to say something positive about employment. Over to you, Scottish Government.

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