Not only is the Government going to close the Newport passport office, but they have announced today that they will be closing 5 local passport offices in Wales, including the one at Wrexham.
Another 27 people made redundant, and I sympathise wholeheartedly with them and their families. These are difficult times, and I expect that these people are in some distress.
However this is not a posting to argue about why the Government should keep the Wrexham office open, though there are plenty of arguments as to why they should do so, not least the irony about a Government who has the stated objective of decentralising the state and promoting localism making decisions which go completely against those aims and objectives! Hypocricy in the extreme.
What concerns me about this announcement is that this is yet another service cut that will affect Wales more than other areas within the UK. While closing 5 local offices might be a small percentage of the overall closure programme they represent an essential (all-be-it irregular) service to a huge swathe of the Welsh population scattered across a large geographic area.
By letting their deliberations regarding centralised cuts be led by the bottom line they are disregarding the important role that services like a local passport office play. This is not only a failure on behalf of the Conservatives and Liberals, it is a regular pattern seen in decisions made in London, and was particularly notable of the Labour Government. They are following an historic pattern, with what they consider to be the remote regions losing out, while they are in fact denying essential services to the whole nation.
The British Authorities must either not be aware of Wales’ unique circumstances and needs, or they don’t care. I suspect that it is actually a combination of both. Circumstances such as higher levels of poverty, a more fragile economy, less income, inferior public transport, and much much more, all of which mean that these closures will hit the people of Wales more than residents in more affluent and central locations.
The announcement is tempered by their intention to introduce a mobile service. They haven’t yet announced what this would actually mean. But it does raise the question why is this mobile service not rolled out across the whole of the UK and close every interview office? The main costs involved in running the interview office are revenue costs, wages. In order to maintain the same level of service one would expect them to maintain the same staffing levels (more or less). The fact is that this is a cost cutting measure, and the service levels will fall affecting the poorest most.
We must remember that this is an interview office providing a service for adults who have never held a passport. It is therefore fair to say that the people who use this service are more likely to be the elderly and the poorest. Once again this cursed ConDem Government are targetting the weakest in our society.