Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Call for Executive to end Armagh’s ‘bleed of public services’

SDLP MLA Justin McNulty has hit out at the Stormont Executive for its failure to protect public services in Armagh city, and says it must do more  to “stand up for the people” of Armagh.

Commenting following the revelation that staff in the city’s Jobs and Benefits Office were informed of “restructuring” of the facility and told they must apply for other posts, Mr McNulty said the development is the latest public service to be “systematically stripped from the area”.

Having been contacted by worried staff, he met with a senior official from the Department for Communities to discuss the situation.

“I was reassured from this meeting with the confirmation that no staff will lose their jobs but moves to a new location will be very inconvenient for staff,” he said.  “I am also still greatly disappointed that it was decided it was appropriate for staff to be kept in the dark when plans were already in place for where they would be potentially reassigned to, or what their new roles would be.

“Over the past couple of years, Armagh has seen public services systematically stripped from the area.  Our courthouse has been closed, our minor injuries unit is gone and now, forget about attracting jobs, we are even seeing the capacity of our job centre reduced.  It is time to end the bleed.”

Mr McNulty says reducing the ability of local people to find employment is “utterly shameful” and says the Department for Communities should do everything possible to fully utilize the Jobs and Benefits Office.

“Following my request for an urgent meeting on the matter, the Minister for the Communities could only find time six weeks from now. It gives you some idea as to where his priorities lie and those of the Executive,” he said.

“It is high time that local MLAs and Councillors from Executive parties stood up for the people of Armagh.  Right now they are content watching our community get hollowed out as they toe the party line. The SDLP will continue to fight for the retention of services in Armagh.”