Jobcentre Wins Reprieve

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Plans to close the Jobcentre Plus on Shepherd’s Bush Green have been suspended, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says.

The reprieve comes as part of the Government’s Pre-Budget Report (PBR) which announced that over a billion pounds would be ploughed into jobs-related measures, ahead of an expected spike in redundancies.  

“The Government is responding to rising unemployment with a comprehensive package of support to help people move back into work as quickly as possible. This PBR announces that an additional £1.3 billion will be set aside for the Department for Work and Pensions over the next two years to ensure Jobcentre Plus capacity is in place to respond effectively to rising unemployment,” Alistair Darling announced.

The decision means that at least 25 Jobcentres, which had been slated for closure as part of the DWP’s bid to cut its operating costs, will remain open.

"We are committed to supporting people through this global economic downturn which is why the Chancellor announced an extra £1.3bn of funding to help people get back into work. James Purnell, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, has also announced a moratorium on Jobcentre closures," a DWP spokesperson said.

Purnell also announced that six thousand more frontline staff would be put into Jobcentre Plus offices next year.

The W12 area has relatively high levels of unemployment: in October 2008, 3.5% of the population of Askew Ward were claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance, as were 4.2% of Shepherd’s Bush Green residents and 5.2% in Wormholt and White City. This compares to 2.9% who were claiming the benefit across H&F as a whole.

Harry Audley, Chair of the White City Residents’ Association, said there were lots of people out of work on the White City Estate: “It’s absurd that Westfield happened and only 1,000 out of 7,000 jobs went to local people. What should have happened is that some years before opening, they should have trained local people. Having local people would have had so many benefits: they could have walked to work and there would have been no parking issues,” he said.   

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) welcomed the halt to Jobcentre closures but warned that the additional 6,000 jobcentre staff could come at the expense of services in other parts of the DWP, such as pensions and carers.

“We have consistently argued that job cuts and office closures undermine vital services and the ability to tackle rising unemployment. We are glad that the government has recognised this by halting Jobcentre closures and with 6,000 new frontline staff,” said PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka.

But the union also called on the government to clarify whether it was still committed to cutting 12,000 jobs across the DWP as part of its three year plan. Under the plan, which runs until 2011, 7,000 – 8,000 Jobcentre Plus staff were to lose their jobs.

November 27, 2008