asked Her Majesty's Government:
How many rural job centres were closed between 1997 and 2004; and whether any new centres were opened during this period.
The information requested is not available for the period before Jobcentre Plus was formed in April 2002.
Between April 2002 and December 2004 a total of 203 offices were closed nationally. Between October 2001 and December 2004 we opened a total of 542 new and refurbished offices to support delivery of the integrated Jobcentre Plus services.
Between one half to two-thirds of the 203 closures to December 2004 are either located in rural areas or serve a catchment area which includes rural communities. However, the areas previously served by these closed sites have benefited from investment in the new integrated Jobcentre Plus service, and more than 300 new and made-over sites could be considered rural or serving areas including rural populations.
Jobcentre Plus customers may now access the service through a greater choice of channels and it is no longer necessary to visit a jobcentre to find work. The entire job bank of around 400,000 local, national and international job vacancies are accessible through the Internet. Over the past year we have seen the number of hits on our jobsearch website increase by 40 per cent. A job vacancy service is also available over the telephone through Jobseeker Direct.