Jobcentres reprieved – for now – as UK faces up to tough year

The government has announced a moratorium on Jobcentre Plus closures and pledged to find 6,000 extra front-line staff to help people made redundant get back into work.

Work and pensions secretary James Purnell told Parliament that no more Jobcentres closures would take place – a move expected to give a stay of execution to 25 offices.

The Pre-Budget report earmarked an extra £1.3bn to help find work for the growing band of unemployed, whose number is expected to soar from 1.82 million to potentially three million by the end of next year.

The Tories disputed the number of closures, saying just three centres would be saved next year.

While welcoming the halt to closures, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) cautioned that the additional 6,000 jobcentre staff could be at the expense of services in other parts of the Department for Work and Pensions, such as pensions and carers.

Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: “We have consistently argued that job cuts and office closures undermine vital services and the ability to tackle rising unemployment. We are glad that the government has recognised this by halting jobcentre closures and with 6,000 new front-line staff.”

Last week Jobcentre Plus chief executive Mel Groves told Personnel Today that he was looking to recruit more staff to cope with expected heavy demand in 2009.

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