The Calder Valley MP has hit back over plans to close Brighouse job centre questioning those who put the proposals forward understand the area or are ‘just sat in their offices using Google Maps’.
Craig Whittaker MP raised the issue in the House of Commons after it the Department of Works and Pensions announced proposals to relocate staff from its Brighouse office to Halifax.
MR Whittaker said: “I support the rationalisation and modernisation of any service, but Brighouse is the largest township within the Calder Valley, so relocating our jobcentre uphill and down dale out of the constituency will be a disaster to the long-term unemployed who rely on it for job advice and training.”
He asked minister Caroline Nokes: “Will you assure me that those who have put forward the proposals have visited places such as the Calder Valley to understand the demographics and geography, or have they just sat in their offices in Whitehall using Google Maps?
She responded by saying that this is not an exercise using Google Maps.
“We have engaged in the exercise over very many months to make the best use of our DWP estate.
“When we are not using the space we have but are paying for it, it is critical that we think very hard about how we can best provide services to our claimants.”
The DWP said that 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.
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.”
If the plans go-ahead 16 staff members will move to Halifax Crossfield House 4.8 miles away.
A final decision on these plans is expected to be made within six months, with a view to completion by March 31 2018.