Knutsford Town Council has written to the Department of Work and Pensions as part of the consultation to close Wilmslow Job Centre. The Town Council discussed the proposed closure of the job centre, which serves Knutsford residents, at a Town Council meeting on February 20th.
At the meeting Collin Billingsley of the DWP outlined proposals to introduce outreach services such as job coaches in Knutsford; however the council is concerned that these are not guaranteed and have not been outlined in the consultation document.
The Town Council objects to the proposed closure of the job centre in Wilmslow if these outreach services are not guaranteed and would expect such outreach services to be in place for users prior to the closure of the Wilmslow centre.
The Town Council has raised concerns about the ease of travel to Macclesfield as the alternative job centre, noting that bus connections to Macclesfield are less reliable and less frequent than those to Wilmslow. One of the Town Council’s key concerns is the accessibility of the Macclesfield centre by public transport from Knutsford and the council has stated this must be considered by the Department when considering the closure of the Wilmslow centre.
The Town Council has implored the Department to engage with a consultation starting later this year on the bus services in Cheshire East, to ensure that the transport needs of jobseekers are a key consideration in any proposed changes.
Knutsford Town Council supports proposals to deliver more services more locally and introducing the delivery of services alongside organisations such as the Welcome, Library service and the Citizens Advice Bureau is to be encouraged. However, this must be balanced against the disadvantages of users having greater difficulties in attending the Job Centre for the two-weekly ‘signing-on’ appointments. The Town Council encouraged the Department to look at modernising the way it conducts such appointments (such as Skype) and encourages these to be delivered as locally as possible too.
In summary, the Town Council would not object to the proposals to close the Wilmslow job centre on the proviso that outreach services are delivered in Knutsford prior to the closure and are suitably safeguarded for the future.