Two Leeds jobcentres - and four separate teams - are being merged as part of a major shake-up of services announced by the Government today (Thursday).
The Department for Work and Pensions is merging the Eastgate and Park Place offices in Leeds, with all functions moving to Park Place.
Backroom staff in Leeds Centre are also to become one team with colleagues at Quarry House.
Minister says Jobcentre Plus operations have changed in recent years as people make more use of online and telephone services, generally only visiting for appointments or for help in researching job vacancies.
It is hoped that the changes will streamline services, save money and make “more efficient use” of DWP premises.
A DWP spokesperson said: “At the heart of everything we do is our customers, and we’ve made it easier than ever for people to access our suite of specialist services to find work and get the support that they need – whether that be in person, online or over phone.
“By bringing together a number of neighbouring Jobcentres we’re continuing to modernise our operations while ensuring that our premises provide best value to the taxpayer.”
The YEP understands there are currently no plans to cut jobs a as part of the proposals, and there will actually be a new recruitment drive to hire 2,500 new work coaches this year.
A final decision on the plans is expected to be made within six months, with a view to completion by the end of March next year.
The Government says the shake-up has come about because 20 per cent of office space in its job shops is being under-used.
Jobcentres and benefit centres are covered by old building contracts which are now coming up for renewal. In the 20 years since these contracts were signed the welfare system has undergone large scale reform.
The DWP estate covers around 1.5 million square metres across the country and 300,000 square metres of this is under-utilised and could be vacated.
Some smaller jobcentres will be merged with larger ones, and others will be co-located with local government premises. DWP will be better able to offer a more efficient service while delivering good value for the taxpayer, saving around £180 million a year for the next ten years.
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, 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.
“The changes we’ve announced today will help ensure that the way we deliver our services reflect the reality of today’s welfare system.”
The nationwide restructuring will see 78 smaller Jobcentre Plus offices in urban areas merge with larger ones nearby;
The DWP is also closing 27 back office buildings around the country and developing larger, more efficient processing sites in a phased approach starting in 2018;
It insists the “vast majority” of staff will have the option to relocate or will be offered alternative roles.