The Tories are preparing a fresh attack on the poor, announcing plans to close more than one in ten job centres last week.
Activists, benefit claimants’ groups and trade unionists have vowed to resist. That means the Tories have a fight on their hands to push the closures through.
The plans, announced on Thursday of last week, will mean that many benefit claimants will have to travel further to get to their nearest job centre.
This means it could cost them more to get to their appointments. And they are more likely to be sanctioned for missing appointments or being late.
Many of the closures will take place in some of the poorest and most deprived areas—such as the Castlemilk estate in Glasgow.
The Castlemilk job centre is one of eight closures announced in Glasgow last December.
Its closure will mean that benefit claimants—including disabled people—will have to spend two hours travelling to and from appointments. Each trip will cost almost five pounds each.
Speaking at a street meeting in Castlemilk last Saturday, local resident and campaigner Jean Devlin said, “We need to act now.
“There are about 900 people here affected by this closure. This community has been ravaged by the Tories’ austerity attacks.”
A street meeting of some 50 people on Friday of last week was a sign of the pushback against the plans since the closures were announced.
PCS union activists believe the Tories announced the Glasgow closures early to gauge the level of resistance the rest would face.
They had expected further closures under plans to slash the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) estate, including job centres, by 20 percent by 2020.
But activists, benefit claimants’ groups and the PCS have responded with large public meetings.
Regional newspapers have also got on board with the campaign, and Scottish National Party and Labour MPs and MSPs have challenged the cuts in parliament.
Dave Owens—a member of the PCS’ DWP group executive committee (GEC)—spoke to Socialist Worker in a personal capacity.
He said, “The scale of the attacks was less than some people had expected—partly due to the resistance in Glasgow.”
But he added that the plans still mean 78 job centres will be closed—and many more “co-located”, or moved to offices further away.
“This has to be seen as part of the attack on social security,” Dave said. “It’s a massive attack on services to the public.”
The closures also mean hundreds of DWP workers lose their jobs.
The DWP GEC is set to meet on 16 February to decide on its response. Regional PCS branches will be having consultation meetings in the run-up to the meeting.
Dave said that the PCS had to join up with benefit claimants’ groups—but that there also had to be national strikes to stop the closures.
“This is a massive attack on jobs,” he said. “There has to be a dedicated campaign—including industrial action, nationwide.”
Thanks to Drew McKewan