Closure threat to Cookstown jobs and benefits offices may be lifted

Under threat of closure - Cookstown Jobcentre
Under threat of closure - Cookstown Jobcentre

The threat of closure hanging over Cookstown jobs and benefits offices may be lifted, according to public sector union NIPSA.

The union has given a cautious welcome to an announcement made by the Working Age Director in the Department for Communities (DfC) regarding the office closure programme.

NIPSA official with responsibility for DfC, Tony McMullan, said: “I am pleased to learn that the management side have visited staff in the four threatened offices – Newcastle, Ballynahinch and Cookstown (two offices) and in the continuing absence of a Minister have given a preliminary assessment that at a relatively modest cost they should be able to keep the offices open and that there would be enough staff to provide Universal Credit on any of the sites.

"I look forward to a definitive announcement which will lift the threat of all closures from the staff concerned.”

NIPSA had a very strong campaign against the office closures involving meetings of members, meeting politicians, meeting community groups in the various locations.

Mr McMullan added that: “A significant amount of lobbying went on with letters being written to the Minister and to all local politicians asking them to ensure the retention of the offices.

"The offices play a key role in providing local services to local communities and if a decision is taken that the offices will remain open then this will be a strong vindication of the campaign launched and supported by NIPSA.”

Last November a contingency of Cookstown people protested the proposed closure of the town’s JobCentre and Social Security Office at Stormont.