SOUTH Down MP Margaret Ritchie has spoken out against the planned closure of the DVA Centre in Coleraine during a Westminster debate held this morning fearing impacts trickling down to the Downpatrick area.
Speaking following the debate, Ms Ritchie said: “This centralisation to Swansea and the removal of the centre from Coleraine will hit jobs across the region including in the local office in my constituency in Downpatrick.
“It will also have a direct impact on service provision as the Coleraine centre provides a range of services that will not be able to be provided to the same level from one central location. This has already been the case after similar measures in Scotland and I am concerned that the Minister responding today did not seem to have learned from these previous mistakes.
“My party colleague Alex Attwood did much to ensure there was a proper consultation on this and a very strong case has been made by him and his predecessor Mark H Durkan for the retention of this service. The UK government say one minute that this measure is to improve the IT system and the next they say it is to save money. It seems clear that the Coleraine centre is already providing a better service with fewer resources than will be the case when their work is transplanted to Swansea.
“A study by Oxford Economics estimates the removal of all services from Northern Ireland would have a direct negative impact in terms of £14.5m and of £7m in workplace wage in the Northern Ireland economy. This removal of £22.2m from the NI economy will impact across our whole economy.
“This amounts to another attack on the public sector at a time when the economy is fragile and there quite simply aren’t the jobs for these people to move into. It is one thing for the British government to talk about rebalancing the Northern Ireland economy but following the privatisation of Royal Mail and the closure of the DVA centre it seems the scales are all stacked on one side.
“The Conservative government are completely out of touch with the needs of working people, especially as their Minister boasted during the debate of owning over a dozen vehicles while effectively telling people in Northern Ireland that they are out of a job,” added Ms Ritchie.