Benefit centre to close

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HALIFAX Benefit Centre in St James Road is expected to close later this year in a bid to cut costs.

The Department for Work and Pensions says the JobCentre Plus office, which is also in Crossfield House, will be unaffected and staff will be offered employment elsewhere.

But the Public and Commercial Services union said closing 17 benefit-processing sites and five contact centres will affect 2,400 posts.

Union general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “This is a deeply flawed and dangerous plan that will remove vital support to jobseekers and people claiming welfare at precisely the time the Government’s ideological cuts will throw more people out of work.

Instead of cutting jobs, the Government should be investing in public services like these to help get people back to work more quickly and help our economy to get back on track.”

The union says Jobcentre Plus has already axed more than 10,000 jobs since 2009 and that the latest losses will lead to further delays in processing claims.

The DWP said staff affected by the decision will be offered work elsewhere, adding that the announcement was about “buildings, not people”.

“We simply can’t afford to carry on paying for buildings which aren’t fully used.” said a spokeswoman.

“In tough financial times, we have to operate as efficiently as possible. Frontline Jobcentre Plus services aren’t impacted by this and benefit payments won’t be affected.”

The PCS said it had been told that other offices earmarked for closure were at Arbroath, Ayr, Broadstairs, Caerphilly, Cannock, Carlisle, Castleford, Chester, Clydebank, Exeter, Grimsby, Hartlepool, Huyton (Merseyside), Lincoln, Liverpool John Moores, Luton, Mansfield, Preston, Sutton in Ashfield, Totton (Southampton) and Yeovil.

Delegates at the union’s annual conference next week are due to launch a campaign against spending cuts, including the jobcentre closures.

They are expected to agree to hold a ballot for nationwide industrial action by civil servants, which could be co-ordinated with other groups of public sector workers, including teachers.

*Crossfield House was built on the site of the old Crossfield Bus Station in the mid 1990s.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said of the planned closure: “Unfortunately, we can’t confirm the numbers of staff affected.”