Lanark JobCentre is to move out of Athol House, in Bannatyne Street, its base for nearly half a century.
Initial fears that the centre, the Department for Work and Pensions’ main Clydesdale office, would fall victim to the current mass cull of Scottish branches have been allayed by the news that new premises are being sought elsewhere in Lanark.
And that new base could be in South Lanarkshire Council’s Clydesdale headquarters in the burgh’s South Vennel as the recent transfer of council departments such as planning and registry to the authority’s Hamilton offices have freed up enough spare room to accommodate the JobCentre.
The move brings an end to almost 50 years of Government use of Athol House, built in the early 1970s on the site of St Leonard’s Church.
The department’s lease on Athol House is soon to run out, and the UK Govermnent has decided not to renew it. The planned fate of the building is not yet known at.
The proposed move was revealed in a briefing letter to all South Lanarkshire councillors from the local authority’s executive director, Daniel Lowe.
He told elected members: “The DWP has been seeking alternative premises in Lanark as the lease agreement for its existing premises ends shortly.
“We were able to offer accommodation in the council offices in South Vennel, which not only resolves the DWP’s accommodation issues but also provides an opportunity to deliver a wide range of public services from a single location.
“As this is only an in-principle agreement at present, there are still a number of points to be worked through prior to any move taking place.
“It is currently anticipated that this will take place early in 2018.”
Lanark and Forth councillor Vivienne Shaw has expressed relief that the Lanark office will not suffer the same fate as several Glasgow jobcentres now facing closure.
She told the Gazette: “Following the widespread closure of jobcentres announced last week, the proposal in principle by South Lanarkshire Council that the DWP be offered accommodation in the council South Vennel offices is one that I welcome.
“This would avoid jobcentre access difficulties experienced in other areas and keep our service local.
“I am sure that this news will be greeted with relief by Lanark JobCentre users.”
However, Clydesdale MSP Aileen Campbell commented: “Although it is welcome that Lanark JobCentre is not earmarked for closure, I seek assurances from the DWP that my constituents are going to receive the same levels of service and that staff jobs are guaranteed as a matter of urgency.
“I will also be seeking support from the Scottish Secretary, David Mundell to assist in putting pressure on his government to ensure our shared constituents receive the best possible service from the jobcentre.
“I will continue to work with Lanark and Hamilton East MP Angela Crawley and the Scottish Government to ensure that Clydesdale communities, who have already suffered from Tory austerity, do not bear the brunt of the Tories’ latest round of attacks on local services.”