[holding answer 8 July 2009]: The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the acting chief executive of Jobcentre Plus, Mel Groves. I have asked him to provide the hon. Member with the information requested.
Letter from Mel Groves:
The Secretary of State has asked me to respond to your question asking how much Jobcentre Plus has spent on (a) increasing the physical capacity of jobcentres, (b) acquiring new office space, (c) extending existing office space and (d) converting existing office space to accommodate higher demand for Jobcentre Plus services. This is something which falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Acting Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
Jobcentre Plus are continuously reviewing existing service delivery arrangements in order to meet the challenge of the current economic climate and the planned welfare reform changes for the next two to three years. The latest reviews have taken account of the latest known information on the expected increases in business and customer volumes.
The latest review has identified that around 50% of Jobcentre Plus offices currently face a capacity challenge. This challenge will be met through a range of solutions and we are unable to provide the data to fully respond to your questions (a, b, c and d) until all of these solutions have been implemented.
In the light of the unprecedented customer demand we have secured the required funding to convert or extend our existing buildings where necessary. In addition we aim to make our services accessible to customers by providing a range of support through outreach facilities, often delivering advisory and other support on Partner’s premises. We are supplementing these measures by operating extended opening hours in some locations where the need for this is identified locally. This includes some offices opening to the public on Saturday. We will only acquire new space where all other measures are insufficient.
To date estates work has been undertaken and completed on 18 of our buildings at a cost of £1m, increasing our capacity to deliver additional customer service to the public. Estates work is planned for a further 151 buildings. This work is currently at an early stage and therefore the costs are not fully known.