A much-maligned Waterfront building is set to become the home of the new Social Security Scotland welfare agency, the Tele has learned.
It is understood that plans have been in place for some time for the agency – which will handle the country’s new devolved benefits system with the creation of around 750 jobs – to take over the Earl Grey Building opposite the V&A.
The six-storey office block has been the subject of derision from locals – and even rock stars – who have criticised both its appearance and its proximity to the £80 million design museum.
Pretenders singer Chrissie Hynde even said the building should be “torn down” when she performed on stage in Slessor Gardens in August.
The building has come in for further criticism after sitting empty for more than a year without any clear indication of a prospective tenant.
After completion of the work by the Robertson Group, the building went on the market for lease in December 2018.
The Tele understands Social Security Scotland will take over the lease on the full building, with timescales still to be agreed.
The team is currently based at Dundee City Council’s Dundee House headquarters in North Lindsay Street.
A spokesman for Social Security Scotland said: “We are continuing discussion in relation to finding a head office in Dundee. These conversations are commercially sensitive and we can’t confirm anything until they are concluded.
“We are looking forward to finding more permanent space in Dundee – expanding our presence as a major employer in the city and as an organisation that will make a significant contribution to the local economy.”
Estate agents Ryden, who are marketing the building, said all queries regarding prospective tenants were dealt with by Dundee City Council.
The local authority was approached for comment but had not responded at the time of publication.
The news comes just days after it was announced the transfer of some benefits from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to Social Security Scotland had been delayed.
Members of Holyrood’s Social Security Committee heard on Thursday how plans to introduce the Scottish Child Payment and Winter Heating Assistance before the end of 2020 had been hampered by the coronavirus outbreak.
Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said ministers intend to press on with plans to seize control of the payments but this was “subject to the DWP’s ability to work with us and provide the necessary data on time”, adding that coronavirus presented “challenging circumstances” for the rollout of the two benefits.
However a DWP spokeswoman said the department remained “committed to working with the Scottish Government”.
She said: “As we have done throughout the process of devolving social security powers, DWP will do all we can to support Scottish Government delivery during these difficult times.
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“We have been very clear that we will continue to pay Scottish customers as usual under an Agency Agreement until the Scottish Government is ready to take over delivery of their replacement benefit.
“DWP remains committed to working with the Scottish Government on the detail of their revised plans and timetables.”
Speaking earlier this week, the leader of Dundee City Council said he was confident that progress was continuing in bringing the jobs to the City of Discovery, despite the latest setback between the agency and the DWP (see video below).
John Alexander, who joined the Tele on Thursday for a video interview alongside councillor Anne Rendall, said: “I am aware of some of the circumstances around this. It’s obviously frustrating that we aren’t seeing that in the timescales that we envisaged.
“But, the relationship between the council and the agency is very strong, so we are keeping each other in the loop with those discussions and what’s happening.
“I am very confident that we will continue to move forward with the job creation; let’s remember that when the announcement was made, this is 750 new jobs at least, and I anticipate that it will probably be in excess of that by the time we get to the full compliment of staff, and the full range of welfare support the agency will ultimately control and handle.
“Again, DWP delays are sadly something that we’ve got used to, but I think we need to make sure that we’re pushing that very firmly, and there aren’t any other significant delays.
“The reality is, during the pandemic, I don’t think there was anything going to change.
“So, over the next few months we’re going to be working very hard to ensure that we can move that project forward, ensure that they continue to recruit hundreds of more staff from Dundee and the surrounding area – and that people feel the benefit of that job creation.”
He added: “Obviously we are kind of a second party to this. It’s really for the agency and DWP to work out that solution and get things in place – but anything we can do to support that, we obviously will, because it’s in everyone’s interests to get that moving quickly.”