Jobs and Benefits Office: Cookstown

Oral Answers to Questions — Communities – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 24th January 2017.

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Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Deputy Speaker 2:30 pm, 24th January 2017

T2. Mr McGlone asked the Minister for Communities for an update on his proposals for the jobs and benefits and social security offices in Cookstown. (AQT 687/16-21)

Photo of Paul Givan Paul Givan DUP

Members will know that there was a consultation on four offices. No recommendations on its outworkings have been brought to me at this stage.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Deputy Speaker

I thank the Minister for his answer. Is he minded to close or retain those services and facilities in the Cookstown area? They serve a big rural area.

Photo of Paul Givan Paul Givan DUP

In the time that I have held this position, I have always looked to see whether there are ways in which we can try to keep our offices open. When jobs were under threat in Armagh, Omagh and Ballymena, I sought to find ways in which we could keep those offices open and ways in which staff would be able to be as close to home as possible. On the four offices in Cookstown that were being consulted on, that is not something that has come to me at this stage, but I am always very reluctant to take decisions that would mean the withdrawal of staff from locations. However, I make the point that, as services change — as they are changing through universal credit and the changes that come through that — a reconfiguration across Northern Ireland is required on how those services are delivered. That is something that the next Executive are going to have to grapple with.