To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many Jobcentre Plus branches there were in (a) rural and (b) urban areas in (i) England and (ii) Wales in each of the last 10 years.
The administration of Jobcentre Plus is the responsibility of the chief executive, Darra Singh. I have asked him to provide the hon. Member with the information requested.
Letter from Darra Singh:
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question asking how many Jobcentre Plus branches there were in (a) rural and (b) urban areas in (i) England and (ii) Wales in each of the last 10 years. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
I am only able to provide information on Jobcentre Plus offices since April 2002, when Jobcentre Plus was created by the merger of the former Employment Service and Benefits Agency. Our public facing network is designed to provide reasonable access to our services throughout England and Wales. Offices open to the public are not categorised as constituting part of an urban conurbation or being sited within a rural location.
Jobcentre Plus inherited around 1,500 offices from the merger of the Benefits Agency and the Employment Service in 2002. At the time of merger the two organisations had many offices which were geographically close to each other, often in the same street. We have modernised our Jobcentre network to improve customer service, rationalising our estate to provide excellent high street coverage and a single, integrated customer facing office, at the same time reducing cost to the tax payer. We remain the largest office network in Government with 741 modern Jobcentres. This high street presence is supported by 31 modern contact centres and 79 main benefit processing centres.
The great majority of our services (in common with most large, modern organisations) are now also delivered through the telephone and internet. For example, to give customers more convenient access, we have almost half a million vacancies on-line at any time (our website receives close to one million job searches every working day), and new claims to benefit are predominantly taken by telephone with some taken on-line. In order to make our services more accessible to customers we are providing a range of support through outreach, often delivering advisory and other support on partners' premises This has brought our customer facing services together in a more coherent and integrated network and I believe Jobcentre Plus is well-placed to respond to the full range of economic conditions.
I hope this is helpful.