The government has been accused of burying bad news as it announced the closure of three debt centres at the cost of 380 jobs on the same day as prime minister Tony Blair announced the date of his departure.
The Public and Commercial Service Union (PCS) has reacted angrily to the closures, announced by the Department for Work and Pensions, and warned that the recovery of millions of pounds of overpaid benefits will be significantly undermined.
The centres have a target to claw back £257m in benefits that have been overpaid due to fraudulent claims or where people have given the wrong information.
Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: “It is scandalous that this announcement has been slipped out when all eyes are on the departure of Tony Blair. Staff are already struggling to hit targets on overpayments due to a lack of resources and an unstable IT systems.
“Cutting staff and closing offices at the same time as increasing the amount to be clawed back in the name of efficiency are the economics of the madhouse.”