Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Jobcentre Plus Office Roll-out

Westminster's Public Accounts Committee released it's report into the DWP's Jobcentre Plus Roll-out last week.

The report is glowing in it's appreciation of the savings made by the office rationalisation plan that replaced 1,500 jobcentres and social security offices across Great Britain with 800 modernised Jobcentre Plus offices.

The rationalisation has been such a success that we can very probably expect more of this nature from others, such as the DVLA, Driving Standards Agency and Courts Service who have all been in touch to get the low-down on what made it so successful.

This is, of course, the rationalisation that saw more than 50 DWP offices close in Wales between 2004 and 2008, leaving 32 towns without a local office, and whose continuation sees another four offices undergoing consultation and with a total of 600 jobs on the line according to PCS Wales.

One of the trumpeted successes was the saving on 16,500 full-time posts as part of the 2004 Spending Review.

Sadly, finance appears to be the only success to which the report could point: 'a more cost effective network...not able to demonstrate clearly whether the project has achieved the business case objective of increasing the number of clients finding work' (2), while 'the improved office environment has not increased customer satisfaction levels significantly' (3), which makes the phrase 'improved' look strangely out-of-place.

In plain English, we've saved some cash, but we've not bothered to work out if we're doing our raison d'etre any better and the 'customer' doesn't think it's made much difference.

I'm all for cutting the waste, but too often these things cut into the bone, and if people in rural and urban Wales are being held back because of their inability to get to a Jobcentre Plus and have the service they need/require, then the changes have failed. Unless you're a government accountant.

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