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Tom Brake

Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington

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Uproar Over Disability Centre Closure - Brake And Burstow

December 21, 2004 12:00 AM

In the latest chapter of the fight against the closure of Sutton Disability Benefit Centre (SDBC) local MPs Tom Brake and Paul Burstow have taken their concerns to Parliament following a meeting with over 70 members of staff, union delegates and management at SDBC's Brighton Road office on Friday 17 December.

At the meeting staff put forward their grave concerns about the future of outreach and home visiting services for disabled people in Sutton and across the much of the south of England, currently the responsibility of the SDBC, following the planned relocation of these posts to Blackpool.

The SDBC also helps people in the community complete disability benefit application forms. But the closure means that Sutton's disabled people will have to turn elsewhere for help.

In a debate yesterday in the House of Commons, Paul Burstow questioned the Government over the rationale behind the decision. And Mr Brake and Mr Burstow have tabled a parliamentary motion calling on the Secretary of State for Work and Pension to reconsider the closure decision, they are seeking a meeting with the DWP Minister for Disability Maria Eagle, and they will be seeking a further parliamentary debate in the New Year.

The SDBC employs over 300 staff. Mr Brake said,

"Over 300 civil servants at the disability centre face a bleak Christmas and an uncertain future because of Gordon Brown's 'slash and burn' approach to cutting civil service numbers. "

"The decision to close the disability centre was announced one month after the final stages of the Disability Discrimination Act took effect. If the centres closes, how will disabled people in Sutton and the South East get help with tackling the maze of benefit claims forms?"

Mr Burstow said in the Commons,

"No evidence has been presented to staff or Members of Parliament to justify the proposal to close the centre but I am led to believe that the centre is among the best performers in the country. So where is the business case that justifies the closure? Where is the rationale behind the decision? And how will delivery of the service be maintained or, indeed, improved for disabled people in Sutton and across the south of England?"