U-turn means jobcentre can 'remain open'
CAMPAIGNERS have won a temporary reprieve in their fight to save a jobcentre from closure.
The Government had planned to close Burslem's Jobcentre Plus from March after claiming there were not enough job-seekers to keep it open.
It would have left more than 800 unemployed people having to travel to Hanley or Kidsgrove to sign on.
But the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has now given the centre a stay of execution until at least September.
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Stoke-on-Trent North MP Joan Walley, who led the campaign, said: "The centre was set up for a specific reason because of the number of people out of work in the area.
"The closure announcement then came like a bolt out of the blue."
She added: "With thousands of people looking for work it would have been foolhardy to close the jobcentre.
"It is now going to be open until at least September and this gives us breathing space to come up with a permanent solution.
"I'll be pressing the DWP to work with other partners, including Stoke-on-Trent City Council and local employers, to devise a solution which puts the needs of jobseekers at its heart.
"It is just inconceivable that people should have to travel to Hanley."
The Moorland Road Jobcentre Plus replaced the original job centre which closed in Duncalf Street in 2007.
It operates on an appointment-only system rather than on a drop-in basis.
Residents have welcomed the DWP U-turn.
Builder Craig Williams, aged 32, of Burslem, said: "The way the economy is at the moment means nobody is safe in their jobs and local people need to be able to rely on these types of services without spending the little money they have on travel expenses."
Student Lauren Owen, aged 19, of Burslem, said: "Burslem has not got a lot of services.
"Keeping the jobcentre open will be brilliant for local people.
"I know a lot of people who will benefit from this."
Latest unemployment figures show 7,783 people in Stoke-on-Trent are currently claiming Jobseeker's Allowance. There are a further 2,112 claimants in Newcastle.
The DWP wants most benefit applications to be done on the internet.
A DWP spokesman said: "The service provided by Jobcentre Plus in Burslem was only ever set up as a temporary measure to help with an increase in benefit claimants.
"We have reviewed the current situation and, despite a significant fall in the number of claimants, we believe there is still work to be done locally."