Galashiels jobcentre is to stay put for at least another year, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has revealed.
In a written response to a Parliamentary question from Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP John Lamont, employment minister Damian Hinds confirmed that the department is still considering options for relocation but that staff and services will remain at New Reiver House, behind High Street, at least until this time next year.
Jobcentre bosses are looking to relocate, but Scottish Borders Council rejected a proposed move to the former Internacionale store in Douglas Bridge, despite it having been unoccupied for the past three years, arguing that the site should be retained for retail use.
The department has lodged an appeal against that decision.
Mr Hinds said: “We announced on July 5 that this jobcentre’s staff and services were to relocate to a new DWP office. This plan has now changed.
“We are still progressing the options to locate a new office, so our staff and services will be staying in the current location for a period of at least 12 months whilst we conclude this activity.”Mr Lamont has welcomed the news that the jobcentre is going nowhere for now and is calling on its bosses, the Scottish Government and the council to work together to secure the long-term future of the service in Galashiels.
He said: “Planning decisions are a matter for local councillors, who have their own valid reasons for blocking the move from New Reiver House.
“This news provides some welcome certainty to job centre users and staff. The DWP is sincere in its desire for a more accessible, more modern jobcentre for Galashiels.
“Over the coming months, I would urge the Scottish Government and Scottish Borders Council to work with the Department for Work and Pensions to find a solution satisfactory for all.
“Considering the amount of empty space in Galashiels, this is surely achievable.”
Galashiels councillor Euan Jardine added: “I am happy to hear that the DWP are remaining in their current building for at least 12 months.
“I hope that this will also encourage the DWP to work alongside the council to formulate a new approach in their quest to find suitable accommodation, one which will ensure the needs of the DWP are met while also factoring in the progressive and positive regeneration of Galashiels over the next few years.”