HC Deb 08 May 1998 vol 311 cc530-1W
Mr. Hepburn

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if she will make a statement on the future of the Benefits Agency office in Jarrow. [39846]

Mr. Keith Bradley

The administration of the Benefits Agency is a matter for its Chief Executive, Peter Mathison. He will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Peter Mathison to Mr. Stephen Hepburn, dated 7 May 1998: The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent parliamentary question asking about the future of the Benefits Agency (BA) office in Jarrow. The original proposal to withdraw BA services from Jarrow has been reviewed as a result of the move towards building an Active Modern Service, the wider consultation process, public concern and the issues raised by yourself and other interested parties. Ministers will be considering a revised proposal which will ensure that there will be no change in benefit service delivery to the Jarrow community. The proposal is to maintain a full Public Caller Office with full payment facilities located in the Viking Precinct, adjacent to the existing office. Amongst other things this will improve facilities for disabled people as the new site will have ground floor access. BA facilities are currently located on the first floor at Viking House. This move will allow the BA's Tyne Tees Area Director to manage the wider operational needs of the Area more effectively. The final decision on the proposal, subject to Ministerial approval, will involve full consultation with staff, Trade Union representatives, local MPs and any other interested parties. I can assure you that the BA is committed to maintaining an office in Jarrow. I should explain that the BA is currently examining the way that all its services are provided to ensure that an equitable service is available to all our customers. We must ensure that there is a balance between the need for customers to have face to face contact with BA officers and the improved quality and increased cost effectiveness and quality improvements that come from concentrating staff in larger sites. Whilst the BA remains fully committed to providing a high standard of customer service, the service provided has to be affordable. The current review of our business processes gives the BA the opportunity to provide better quality services, increased security and greater value for taxpayers' money. All proposed changes to service delivery within the BA are now being measured against the following criteria: Wider access to our services for customers. Improved accuracy, quality and security of service. Achieving a fair balance between the needs of staff, policy and operational needs. Increased efficiency and reduced costs. I hope that this is helpful.