Campaigners attend protest over plans to close Jobcentre in one of Sheffield’s most deprived areas

Protesters gathered in Hartshead Square earlier today over the proposed closure of a Jobcentre in Sheffield.

The Eastern Avenue branch in Manor Top is one of 78 job centres across the UK due to be closed by the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) to cut costs.

Representatives from the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) were at the protest, as part of their campaign to keep the Jobcentre open.

Tom Bishell, DWP branch secretary for PCS Sheffield, said: “We believe it should stay open. We think there is enough unemployment and enough reasons to need DWP services to continue to have a presence on that site.”

Campaigners say the Eastern Avenue centre is used by more than 1,100 people per week and that claimants can’t afford the additional travel costs of travelling into the city centre.

Mr Bishell said residents need a site that “serves their community, which is best based in their community”.

He said the PCS branch may ballot Jobcentre staff over possible industrial action, as they step up their campaign to prevent the closure.

Out of the eight wards that the Eastern Avenue Jobcentre serves, seven have higher than the UK average of people claiming out-of-work benefits.

Tim Jones, a representative from Mental Health Action Group Sheffield, said: “It’s not feasible for people to travel. If the individual is independent and can travel on the bus, then it brings up a lot of other questions. Have they got a concessionary pass? If people who are signing on, have they got the adequate finances for a bus to the city centre? It is a long journey, and if someone has physical illness or disability then it’s difficult.”

PCS have been leading the campaign against the closure

The campaign has received support from the Manor Castle Green Party, and from Labour councillors and MPs.

Sheffield City Council’s deputy leader, Cllr Leigh Bramall, said: “I am concerned at the impact the closures will have on claimants including increased travel times, additional costs and accessibility issues – and am worried for staff who must be very anxious about their jobs.”

Louise Haigh, MP for Sheffield Heeley, has launched a petition to save the Jobcentre, which has been signed by more than 130 people.

The DWP said the 75 staff at Eastern Avenue will be offered a transfer to another Jobcentre but security and cleaning staff have not been given that guarantee.

Another protest has been organised for tomorrow, which will be held outside of the Eastern Avenue centre at 12.30pm.