Barnet's Labour councillors have raised the proposed closure of Finchley and Edgware Jobcentres at last night's Policy & Resources Committee (23 Feb) as an urgent item, and are urging residents to respond to the public consultations by the deadline which closes on Tuesday 28 February at 5pm.
The Jobcentres are set to close when the Department for Works & Pensions buildings contract expires on 31 March 2018, after which people will need to travel to the two remaining Jobcentres in Hendon and High Barnet to access job search advice and welfare services in the borough.
Labour councillors pointed out that High Barnet and Hendon are not "neighbouring" alternatives for people living in Finchley and Edgware as suggested in the consultation. The highlighted travel time of 23 minutes from Finchley to High Barnet is in reality much longer on public transport, and more likely to take up to an hour at peak times for example.
Labour councillors also said that the closures cut across the One Public Estate programme which Barnet is part of piloting, where public sector bodies are encouraged to share buildings and co-locate services. Under the programme the council has secured £500,000 towards bringing public sector services together in shared facilities.
The Committee agreed that a response to the Jobcentres consultation would be drafted by officers and circulated for agreement to members of the committee before the deadline.
Leader of the Barnet Labour Group, Cllr Barry Rawlings said: "We oppose these closures because it will mean a worse service for local people looking for work when we should be making it easier for people.
"In addition to the longer distance and travel time to Hendon or High Barnet, it could mean longer queues and wait times at the two remaining Jobcentres and less opportunity for face-to-face advice on more complex issues like Universal Credit.
"The suggestion that part time outreach advice could be provided in a local community venue like a library may be difficult to achieve given the reduced space at local libraries, and is not a replacement for the current services.
"The closures do not fit in with the One Public Estate approach where public sector bodies are supposed to co-locate services - we could be using these buildings to provide all sorts of community services."
Responses to the consultation should be emailed by 5pm on Tuesday 28 February to firstname.lastname@example.org