Four towns will lose job centres
Jobcentres in four Norfolk towns are to close within the next few months, despite a lengthy battle to keep them, it emerged yesterday. Downham Market, Wymondham, Swaffham and Hunstanton are to lose their Jobcentre Plus offices by October, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said.
Jobcentres in four Norfolk towns are to close within the next few months, despite a lengthy battle to keep them, it emerged yesterday.
Downham Market, Wymondham, Swaffham and Hunstanton are to lose their Jobcentre Plus offices by October, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said.
Swaffham is to lose its jobcentre entirely, but work is continuing which could see jobcentre staff stationed in council offices two or three days a week in the other three towns.
Otherwise the nearest jobcentres are in King's Lynn, Fakenham, Thetford or Norwich.
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Yesterday was the first many had heard of the plans, which surfaced through Downham Market Chamber of Commerce. The group had been approached over possible spaces within other public sector buildings for a part-time service in the town.
Richard Edwards, Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) representative for Norfolk, said: “It is a loss to those communities. But we view it as a partial victory. If people put up resistance, it confirms that you can retain these services.
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“Unfortunately in Swaffham we did not generate enough of a fight in that community to keep a service there.”
There are six staff at Swaffham and seven at Downham Market .
Mr Edwards said it was understood that staff had been told they would be offered jobs in other localities but the effect would be on local communities, which, especially in Norfolk, have many migrant workers who rely on advice and help from jobcentres.
“People in these communities are increasingly isolated - post offices have been closed and people now have to reply on the phone or travel to get services,” he said.
A spokesman for the DWP said: “We need to constantly review how we deliver our business, including the Jobcentre Plus network, to ensure we are making best use of our resources to deliver Jobcentre Plus services.
“As a result of this and following a recent consultation exercise, the four Jobcentre Plus offices will close within the next few months, although no firm dates have yet been agreed.”
He said a job search and a telephone benefit inquiry service would continue in the four towns.
In May it was announced that 26 rural jobcentres across five other English counties were under threat of closure.The PCS said more than 600 jobcentres and benefit offices had already closed over the last three years.
The union says it comes against a backdrop of a continuing national dispute with the government and civil service management over job cuts, below-inflation pay and privatisation, which has already seen two nationwide civil service strikes.