Last-ditch bid launched to save Whitley Bay Jobcentre

Whitley Bay Jobcentre
Whitley Bay Jobcentre

A campaign has been launched in a last-ditch bid to save Whitley Bay Jobcentre.

The Whitley Road centre will close its doors for the final time on August 18, with staff and claimants moving to North Shields Jobcentre.

Now the PCS Union has started a campaign to fight the closure.

Fran Heathcote, PCS DWP president and chairman of DWP Northumbria and Tyneside branch, said: "Our PCS members at Whitley Bay have mounted this campaign at very short notice to try to save this office as they know what a detrimental impact this decision will have on those that use the Jobcentre in Whitley Bay.

"At a time when so much is being done to rejuvenate Whitley Bay, it makes no sense to remove this important public service from the town, and far from saving the taxpayer money, no evidence has been provided of this, with DWP yet to publish any impact analysis. We believe it will just leave those who most need our services, further out of pocket.

"We urge the DWP and the Government to enter into a proper consultation over this closure and the need to keep a presence in the town and think again about removing this vital service from Whitley Bay."

The office is one of a number being closed by the Government. Officials at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) say the move is to help save money. With more claims being made online, the mergers will reduce the amount of under-used office space.

The plans were announced earlier this year, with Whitley Bay staff given the closure date this month.

Tynemouth MP Alan Campbell has called on the Government to reconsider the decision to close the Jobcentre.

He said: "In March of this year I warned the Minister about the shortcomings of this plan, both for claimants, staff and the wider community.

"Hundreds of people across the community signed a petition and the campaign was highlighted in the News Guardian.

"Far from considering the arguments including taking a vital service out of the town we’re all working so hard to regenerate, the Government has ploughed on with its closure plan.

"I strongly urge the Government to reconsider this decision."

Fran Heathcote said union members working at Whitley Bay have expressed grave concerns about the impact on those who use the Jobcentre having to use public transport to get to North Shields.

In February, a DWP spokesman said: “With eight out of 10 Jobseeker’s Allowance claims now made online and 20 per cent of our office space underused, we are streamlining our estate, which will save taxpayers £1.8billion. This year we are hiring 2,500 more work coaches to help those who need it most."

Damian Hinds, Minister for Employment, said at the time: “We will always make sure that people have the support they need to get into and progress within work, that’s why we are recruiting 2,500 more work coaches to help those who need it most.

"The way the world works has changed rapidly in the last 20 years and the welfare state needs to keep pace. As more people access their benefits through the internet, many of our buildings are under-used. We are concentrating our resources on what we know best helps people into work."