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Volume 447: debated on Tuesday 13 June 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many Jobcentre Plus offices closed in 2005-06; and how many are planned for closure in (a) 2006-07 and (b) 2007-08. (63377)

The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus, Lesley Strathie. She will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Lesley Strathie:

The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question on how many jobcentre plus offices closed in 2005/06; and how many are planned for closure in (a) 2006/07 and (b) 2007/08. This is something which falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.

The shape of the Jobcentre Plus network is under continual review. Following the creation of Jobcentre Plus in 2002 a programme of closures emerged. A detailed service delivery planning exercise was carried out in each District, in consultation with local stakeholders, to identify the locations from which new processes and services would be delivered. Jobcentre Plus inherited a network of around 1500 offices from the former Employment Service and Benefits Agency. It was established during the service delivery planning process that many were unsuitable due to the fabric of the building, location or both. These factors influenced the shaping of the future network. For these reasons a total of 206 offices have closed since 1st April 2005. A further 113 offices are scheduled to close in 2006/07 and 8 during 2007/08. In addition there are a number which are scheduled to close but for which final closure dates are subject to further planning and stakeholder consultation.

Secondly, as a result of a decision in September 2004 to centralise the processing of benefits, 35 offices have been identified for closure once processing work has migrated out of those locations. Four have closed during 2005/06. The closure dates for the remaining offices is subject to more detailed planning but the assumption is that a further 10 will be closed during 2006/07 and the remaining 21 sites during 2007/08.

We continue to evaluate our services and the network of offices from which they are delivered to ensure efficiency. Any site identified as a potential closure, as part of this process, is referred to the Minister of State for consideration. To date 12 offices have been agreed for closure. The actual dates for these closures are currently being finalised but the expectation is that they will occur during 2006/07.