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Council lobbies Stormont over jobs

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Council lobbies Stormont over jobs thumbnailDeputy Chair of Mid-Ulster District Council, Cllr. Sharon McAleer, joined by representatives of the local community and voluntary sector, NIPSA and those affected to deliver Letter of Concern to Minister at Stormont.

THE Deputy Chair of Mid-Ulster District Council, Cllr. Sharon McAleer travelled to Stormont last week to deliver a Letter of Concern on behalf of the Council and the local community to the Minister for Communities, Paul Givan, following the Department's consultation on proposals to close the Cookstown Social Security Office and Job Centre and move face to face services to branches in Dungannon and Magherafelt.

The letter reiterated to the Minister the Council's deep concerns that the proposed closure would have a detrimental effect on the most vulnerable in the predominantly rural Cookstown area, concerns which had previously been put to him at a meeting of Council Members and Officials.

Deputy Chair Cllr. McAleer told the Courier: "We are extremely concerned at the proposed closure of the Cookstown Social Security Office and put across our views to the Minister in the strongest possible terms in this Letter of Concern which I am personally delivering.

“We have also identified several flaws in the consultation document that contained inaccurate figures which were both misleading and disingenuous.

"The Council's position is that it was and still is open for detail discussions with the department on these issues, and we continue to encourage those affected and in the sector to make their views known to the Minister." 

The proposals were debated in the Assembly in an adjournment debate brought by Linda Dillon, MLA and a past Chair of Mid-Ulster District Council, on Tuesday 15th November.

The Minister who was present for the debate stated,:"All the issues will be taken very seriously and I am committed to taking my own view on all this on the basis of information that will be provided to me."

A delegation from Mid-Ulster Council has already met the Minister for Communities, Paul Givan, to discuss the proposals to close the Cookstown Social Security Office and Job Centre.

At the September Council meeting it was unanimously resolved that the Council write to the Minister requesting a suspension to the closure of Cookstown Social Security Office and Job Centre consultation until he had met with Council and given due consideration to equality and rural needs issues. 

Chair of the Council, Cllr Trevor Wilson and Cllrs Tony Quinn, Ronan McGinley, Wilbert Buchanan and Cathal Mallaghan, and the Council's Chief Executive Anthony Tohill and Director for Business and Communities Adrian McCreesh travelled to Stormont and put to the Minister the Council's "deep concerns" that the proposed closure would have a detrimental effect on the most vulnerable in the Cookstown area.

Cllr Wilson said he was "extremely concerned" about the proposed closure and stated that the consultation document was flawed and inaccurate.

"The Council's position is that it was and still is open for detail discussions with the department on these issues, and we continue to encourage those affected and in the sector to make their response to the Minister," he added. 

The Minister stated that this is part of an efficiency exercise where hard decisions have to be made.

He did ask for other solutions from the Council, but did not commit to a suspension to the closure.

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