The decision to close Dagenham jobcentre has been branded a “disgrace” by the deputy council leader.
Councillor Dominic Twomey spoke out about the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP)’s announcement to shut the Chequers Lane centre and relocate staff and claimants to Barking, along with some from East Ham.
It is part of a nationwide scheme aimed at making efficiencies by merging smaller offices with larger ones and cutting down on underused space.
Cllr Twomey said: “This is a disgrace and once again, it is a decision that will see the most disadvantaged suffer.
“We wrote to the DWP in February, specifically asking them to work with us to explore opportunities to co-locate the job centre with council staff in order to maintain a presence in Dagenham, and we have had no response.
“Our borough has a high rate of worklessness and this decision will further alienate the very people we are committed to helping.”
Dagenham and Rainham MP Jon Cruddas has also criticised the decision.
“I am shocked to the core that they plan to close the Chequers Lane job centre,” he said.
“If you have one of the highest unemployment rates in London, it is a statement of the bleeding obvious that you must have a job centre in Dagenham.
“The latest figures show 1,690 men and women in Barking and Dagenham are currently on benefits and seeking work. Many more need proper access to a job centre.
“On one hand this government want the jobless to look for vacancies every day; yet, on the other, they want people to travel over four miles further afield to Barking.
“How on earth do they expect men and women, already struggling to make ends meet, to pick up the extra travel costs? I will be taking this matter up as a matter of urgency with ministers.”
A DWP spokesman said that Barking and Dagenham Council had been contacted in January to outline proposals, and again in July to confirm final arrangements, and that it had no record of a letter as mentioned by Cllr Twomey.
He added: “Jobcentre Plus will continue to deliver a high level of service for local residents.”
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