Sinn Féin MLA Chris Hazzard has confirmed that the proposed closures of the Newcastle and Ballynahinch Social Security Offices have been put on hold until a new Communities Minister has had the opportunity to review the proposals currently on the table.
The South Down MLA said:
“Following discussions with the Department for Communities I can confirm that no decision will be taken regarding the proposed closures until after an Executive has been formed and the next Minister has had the opportunity to consider all possible options.
“Sinn Féin have opposed the proposed closures from the outset as they will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the most vulnerable people in our community. We believe it is entirely unacceptable to force claimants to travel such long distances in times of increasing economic hardship.
Local Cllr Willie Clarke added:
“I am sure that this confirmation will alleviate much concern amongst the community and particularly for those who would be directly affected. Thankfully those of us who have campaigned against these closures will now have an opportunity to engage with a new Minister in the future and once again make the case for local access to vitally important services.”