Anger over 'bogus consultation' as government confirms Sheffield jobcentre will close

Campaigners protest against the closure of the Eastern Avenue jobcentre in Sheffield
Campaigners protest against the closure of the Eastern Avenue jobcentre in Sheffield
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A jobcentre in Sheffield will close, it has been confirmed, prompting an MP to lash out at what she called a 'bogus consultation'.

The jobcentre on Eastern Avenue, in Manor Top, was earmarked in January for closure along with dozens of others across the country, in a move the Government says will save taxpayers more than £1.4bn over the next decade.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) today confirmed the centre would shut next March, despite a petition calling for it to be saved and a strike by staff opposing its loss.

The Eastern Avenue jobcentre will be merged with existing jobcentres in the city at Cavendish Court and Bailey Court, each of which is at least three miles away.

Campaigners said the Eastern Avenue centre was used by more than 1,100 people a week, many of whom would struggle to access the alternatives and could miss out on benefits and support to get back into work.

Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh, who backed the fight to save it, today said: "This bogus consultation answered none of the key concerns we put to the department.

"They have no idea how much it will save, no idea how much will need to be spent to increase capacity in the city centre and have shockingly refused to even publish the impact assessment before the decision was made.

"By pressing ahead with closures in the teeth of opposition from local communities and staff, it is clearer than ever that the Government isn't interested in communities like ours.

"Residents, staff and the local community will rightly conclude that the Government never had any interest in keeping open this vital local service."

The DWP said more claims were now made online, meaning fewer jobcentres were needed, and claimed more 'work coaches' were being recruited nationally to help people back into employment.

Damian Hinds, minster for employment, said: "We will always make sure that people have the support they need to get into and progress within work. These changes reflect the fact that more people access their benefits online resulting in many of our buildings being underused.

"We’re merging some offices and locating other jobcentres with local authorities to make sure that the welfare state and our employment support works for those who need it and those who pay for it."

The DWP has said staff at the Eastern Avenue jobcentre, where around 75 people work, will be offered a transfer to another jobcentre.