Job loss shock for Blackpool printing staff

More than 50 workers are to lose their jobs as a civil service print operation is to shut down.

Thursday, 30th June 2016, 11:00 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 5:17 pm
The Norcross civil service site with Clarke House in the centre

Staff at Clarke House, Norcross have been told by employer Williams Lea that the operation which prints millions of letters and forms for benefits including Job Seekers Allowance, Personal Independent Payments and Winter Fuel Allowance, will end.

Despondent staff said they had hoped the jobs might be safe in April when the German-owned company took over from Hewlett-Packard, but they were left devastated when told they are in a 45 -day consultation period after which the office would close.

Work will be transferred to Williams Lea’s sites in Leicester and Norfolk.

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A spokesman for the London-based PCS union said: “The 51 members in Norcross and the 62 in Washington are devastated. They knew there was a chance their jobs were under threat but when the management broke the news last week they were shocked.

“In April the company said it had not got a solution elsewhere for the printing operation which is very complex,so the members thought their jobs may continue.

“They later announced there would be a review of the business so the members knew job cuts may have been coming, but it was still a terrible shock for them when it was announced.

“The Blackpool area used to have around 18,000 civil service related jobs now that figure has been cut to 6,000.

“We are also concerned for the vulnerable people who rely on this service. This is very complex, sensitive work. Norcross was the only site capable of printing Personal Independent Payment material for disabled people.”

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden said the job losses were a blow to the area.

He said: “The news of these job losses is worrying for all those across the Blackpool and Fylde Coast area and will have big impact on the individuals concerned, as well as their families. From what workers at the Clarke House site have said, the situation is concerning, especially when you consider William Lea took over only a couple of months ago. I will write to William Lea asking them to explain in more detail as to why and how they came to this decision. This is a further blow to what is already a fragile local economy.”

A spokesman for Williams Lea said: “We undertook a vigorous review of the print services in conjunction with the DWP and unfortunately there will be job losses in line with the solution’s proposals.”

She added there should be no inconvenience to benefits claimants as the work would be “readily absorbed” by the company’s other sites.