Union backs campaign to save Whitley Bay Jobcentre

Job Centre on Whitley Road,  Whitley Bay

Job Centre on Whitley Road, Whitley Bay

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Trade union officials have backed a campaign to save a Jobcentre from being closed.

Tynemouth MP Alan Campbell raised the issue last month after learning that the Jobcentre Plus, in Whitley Road, Whitley Bay, has been earmarked as one of 78 to be closed as part of a cost-cutting move.

Now he has been backed by the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which represents Jobcentre staff.

The Jobcentre is set to close by March 2018, as part of Government plans to save costs and centralise services, with staff and jobseekers being moved to the facility in North Shields.

But the union is arguing that Jobcentres provide a lifeline for unemployed people, and that forcing them to travel further is unfair and undermines their efforts to find work.

Mr Campbell has condemned the proposed closure, and launched a petition as part of the campaign to save the site.

The petition states ‘at a time when it’s more important than ever to support those looking for work, taking away this facility from our town is a short sighted move.’

PCS representative Lawrence Barnes said: “We are extremely concerned about the proposal to close the jobcentre here.

“The staff provide a vital service to the public who will struggle to travel to North Shields if the office is closed.

“My union has launched a campaign against huge cuts to the jobcentre network, and we will do everything we can to ensure the office in Whitley Bay stays open.”

Speaking last month, Mr Campbell said: “I think it’s reckless for the Government to close so many Jobcentres at a time when it is more important than ever to provide support for people looking for work.

“Claimants from places like Whitley Bay will be forced to travel further to sign on and in many cases will incur increased travel costs that DWP will not reimburse.

“Living on benefits, these are costs they cannot and should not have to afford whilst also risking harsh sanctions if people are unable to keep appointments.

“I’m always concerned when services and amenities are taken out of the town. Whitley Bay Jobcentre is also a relatively new building which also raises questions about the cost-effectiveness of the move.

“I’m calling on the Government to think again.”

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said no jobs would be lost as a result of the closure and they were looking to take on more staff.

The move aims to reduce the amount of under-used office space, with more claims being made online.

A DWP spokesperson said: “With eight out of ten 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.”