Jobcentre axe blow for jobseekers

Demonstrators including Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Debbie Abrahams MP with residents and activists at Colne Jobcentre
Demonstrators including Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Debbie Abrahams MP with residents and activists at Colne Jobcentre

Jobseekers in Colne and surrounding areas face a trip to Nelson in order to find work, after it was confirmed that Colne Jobcentre is to close.

Leader Times Newspapers first reported in February that the Department of Work and Pensions had announced a consultation over the future of the Market Street office.

It has now confirmed that the centre will close, on Monday, with all 17 staff being transferred to Nelson.

The news will come as a blow to jobseekers and local politicians who hoped the centre could be saved.

Pendle’s Conservative leader Coun. Joe Cooney, who represents the Colne Vivary Bridge ward, said: “I’m disappointed the centre is closing.

“I know the town council held some meetings with the DWP to look at providing some service from the Town Hall but that wasn’t possible.

“I understand no claimant will be out of pocket by travelling to Nelson as expenses are covered and the centre is adjacent to the bus and train station so within easy reach.

“I’ve already raised the future of the site with PEARL which owns the building and it presents a real redevelopment opportunity to improve further Colne town centre.”

The DWP said the plans reflect the fact that eight out of ten claims for Jobseeker’s Allowance and 99% of applications for Universal Credit Full Service claims are now made online. This means that DWP buildings are used much less with 20% of the estate currently under utilised.

But members of the public who have used the centre have expressed their concern.

Colne man Mr Craig Brown said: “I have recently found work and can drive, but I feel for those people in Colne and further afield places like Barnoldswick that will have to travel further.

“Every penny counts when you are out of work so if there are any extra expenses this could really hurt people.”

The DWP confirmed that claimants who are required to attend the Jobcentre apart from signing on will have their fares refunded.

A DWP spokesman said: “Colne Jobcentre is becoming increasingly underused, particularly as more of our services are offered online.

“Merging the centre with our site in Nelson means we can continue to provide a first-rate level of service to our claimants.”

The closure of smaller Jobcentres across the country will save more than £140m a year for the next ten years.

Jobcentres and benefit centres are covered by PFI contracts which are now coming to an end. In the 20 years since these contracts were signed, the welfare system has undergone large-scale reform.

The plans reflect the fact that eight out of ten claims for Jobseeker’s Allowance and 99% of applications for Universal Credit claims are now made online with 20% of buildings under-used.