Nick Smith MP has called on the Government to ensure Blaenau Gwent has a gateway to jobs as he attempts to save a job centre from closure.
Proposals mean the Tredegar Job Centre is set to be folded into the Ebbw Vale site, leaving Blaenau Gwent with just two job centres in a borough with one of the highest economic inactivity rates in Wales.
Mr Smith met with Employment Minister Damian Hinds to discuss the move in a bid to get the Government to think again.
Mr Smith pointed out the difficulties caused by the move including reduced part-time access to public digital services and the potential that future job developments in the area could bypass the town’s workers.
There is also the extra difficulty of travelling between the towns if you are unable to pay the £5.10 bus fare – a walk of more than 50 minutes along public carriageways and countryside roads with no pavements in a region with rainfall far higher than the average.
Speaking after the meeting, where the Minister was asked to consider alternative sites in the town if cost cutting was necessary, Mr Smith said it was important not to put more roadblocks in the way of people trying to find work.
“Maybe to an outsider it looks like the difference in distance is a small one and there’s no problem if the jobs are being ported over,” he said.
“But we have to put service users first and in this case that’s people trying to find their way into the work place who are already finding it hard out there.
“Taking more options out of our towns when we are already losing services such as banks up and down the valley hollows out our communities.
“We also need to keep the job centre open to ensure we do all we can to ensure developments such as the Circuit of Wales take off and are able to access local jobseekers.
“I urge the Government to look again at this decision and back up their talk of helping people into work with real action.”
The total number of unemployed claimants in Blaenau Gwent in March 2017 was 1,560, with one in 20 people of working age unemployed.
The UK claimant average is half that of Blaenau Gwent and 23.6% of borough homes are classed as workless homes.