Councillor Julian Bell, the leader of Ealing Council, and Councillor Peter Mason, cabinet member for prosperity, skills, employment and transformation, have written for the second time to the minister.
They first raised their concerns with the minister in early February, citing Southall’s high levels of unemployment and deprivation alongside the area’s distinct local economy, large numbers of non-English speaking residents and higher-than-average numbers of residents without formal qualifications. They fear that local people will lose out on jobs as a result of the closure.
Councillor Bell said: “This decision makes no sense at all. The Department for Work and Pensions is ripping out a valuable source of support and employment opportunities from the heart of a community that needs it the most and the minister is overseeing it. After the closure, some of our most deprived residents will be forced to travel up to eight miles to attend a Jobcentre. How does this make sense?
“We raised our concerns with the minister in January and they were, frankly, dismissed. Our request to meet with him to discuss the impact of the closure on our residents was also rebuffed and now we find ourselves in a position where the closure will go ahead, without a proper discussion with those who best comprehend the impact of this decision on local people.”
Councillor Mason added, “We are now urging the minister to stop and think again. This kind of decision can’t just be made on the basis of a paper exercise at a desk in Whitehall, when it is going to hit real people hard in Southall. They must take time to come to Southall, and see for themselves the lasting damage the closure of our Jobcentre will have on the local community. The minister must change his plans.”