WEST Dunbartonshire MP Martin Docherty-Hughes has revealed that an attempt is being made to re-house Alexandria Job Centre closer to its current base in Bank Street.
The Reporter told back in January how the branch was earmarked for closure in a cost cutting exercise by the Department of Work and Pensions.
Under the current plans, the Alexandria Jobcentre will close and staff would transfer to Dumbarton Job Centre – nearly four miles away – by March 2018 at the latest.
But Mr Docherty-Hughes organised a petition against the decision and claimed the closure was “unacceptable.”
The SNP MP enjoyed support from rival politicians including Scottish Labour MSP Jackie Baillie, who labelled the closure “a reckless decision.”
Ms Baillie also invited Government Minister Damian Hinds to visit the area via public transport in a bid to highlight the effect it would have on those having to travel the extra four miles to access the service.
That invite, though, was rejected.
Now Mr Docherty-Hughes has met with Employment Minister Damian Hinds and mooted the possibility of utilising another publicly owned building in the area, which could secure the branch's future.
That option is being supported by West Dunbartonshire Council who say they'll work with the DWP to find a solution.
Now Mr Docherty-Hughes hopes a deal can be struck where the Alexandria Job Centre can be based in a location nearer to its current spot.
He said: “It is helpful that the Council have agreed to work with the DWP to look at other publicly owned buildings that could be used to house an Alexandria Job Centre, at a lower cost than their current private rented accommodation.
“I have convinced the Minister of the merits of close collaboration and partnership working to meet local need and overcome the DWP’s financial situation, and he has indicated he would look at such a solution. He is now expecting a letter from West Dunbartonshire Council to start this process.
“I am adamant that we need to retain a job centre in Alexandria and whether that means a new standalone location or the DWP co-locating with other public services, the public sector locally must work together to find a solution.
“It’s critical that all partners work together to keep the pressure on the DWP to engage constructively. It is extremely helpful that politicians are approaching this on a cross party basis and I am grateful for the strong support myself and the SNP Council Group have had from Jackie Baillie MSP, the Labour Council Administration and other local Councillors.”
Mr Docherty-Hughes knows that campaigners face an uphill task to try to convince the UK Government to reverse their decision to axe a local job centres.
He said: “I was disappointed with the unwillingness of the Government to consider the circumstances of deprivation in the Alexandria Job Centre catchment area and also to hear of his refusal of Jackie Baillie’s invite for him to visit the area.
“It is clear that the UK Government are not going to reconsider their position that the current building is not economically viable.”
Damian Hinds said: “The way the world works has changed rapidly in the last 20 years and the welfare state needs to keep pace. As more people access their benefits through the internet many of our buildings are under-used.
“We are concentrating our resources on what we know best helps people into work.”