Union bosses have criticised a proposal to close a job centre in the south of Leeds and merge it with one in the city centre.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have announced to staff their intention to close the branch on Whitfield Gardens, in Hunslet, and move it into the job centre on Eastgate, two-and-a-half miles away.
Consultation has now begun into the proposal, which is understood to be due to an under-use of the Hunslet building, with all staff told they can transfer to Eastgate.
But Charles Law, industrial officer at public and commercial services union PCS, said it will mean staff and already cash-strapped job seekers having to incur extra costs to get into the centre of town.
“Job seekers don’t really have additional resources to fund that. From a public service point of view, it raises a lot of serious questions about how Leeds delivers its service to people who need services like job centres. PCS is very clear that it’s the wrong decision to close the office and we will be doing everything we can to get this decision reversed and keep the job centre open.”
Coun Patrick Davey (Lab, City and Hunslet) also raised concerns over the financial impact on job seekers and said he would be interested to know more about the rationale behind the decision, adding: “I appreciate if the DWP are saying the building is under-used but they have to bear in mind it’s a service they’re providing, not a property investment business.”
A DWP spokesman said: “Taxpayers quite rightly expect us to make the best use of the space we occupy, and this is an opportunity for DWP to look at how we deliver our services in Leeds to make sure we get the best deal for claimants, staff and the taxpayer. There will be no job losses due to this proposed move.”