A CROSS-PARTY group from Fermanagh and Omagh Council is seeking a meeting with the First and Deputy First Ministers to discuss job losses in the area.
At their monthly meeting in Enniskillen, councillors expressed concern that 40 staff based at the local Jobs and Benefits office in the town have been given “a two year stay of execution”.
Last month staff at Enniskillen’s Jobs and Benefits office voiced their concerns regarding the security of up to 50 jobs. The Queen Elizabeth Road office currently houses approximately 80 staff, with half of these staff responsible for Jobseekers allowance claims.
The introduction of Universal Credit will see Jobseekers allowance processing activities wound up and the staff in this area, no longer needed. The main concern for staff is the loss of their jobs and following that where they will be relocated if the work is no longer in Enniskillen.
It is thought that changes in welfare payments will see Enniskillen office will become a front office for ‘Benefit Cap’, which would leave minimal resources required for this service. The Department for Communications has claimed that those who are effected by the reform will be relocated to another office and no jobs will be lost as “local employees would be offered suitable posts in another part of the department”.
On foot of these concerns, UUP Councillor Howard Thornton has proposed that the council hold two meetings: one with the Communities Minister Paul Givan and a second with the First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
He said: “These jobs are gone and they’re gone for good. We’re being forgotten about in this area and experiencing so many job losses that this council needs to act. The exodus of public sector jobs from Fermanagh has to stop. Other businesses depend on these jobs but it seems the west is being totally lost and we will not be the ignored part of Northern Ireland. I’m hugely concerned also for our young people and the fact that jobs are simply being stripped away.”
Independent Cllr Bernice Swift also expressed her disappointment: “It is most disappointing and simply not good enough that we are being disregarded in this way.”
Councillors agreed to write to the Ministers requesting a meeting to discuss the job losses in the district.