A DECISION to potentially close Clitheroe Job Centre has sparked alarm among the town’s politicians and union leaders.

Bosses at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) have confirmed that the future of the Lowergate office is under threat as part of a ‘value for money’ consultation.

Job-hunters and benefits claimants would be forced to travel to Blackburn under the DWP proposals — but officials have conceded that smaller premises in Clitheroe may be found for a scaled-down operation in future.

If the closure goes ahead it would be the second site in East Lancashire to close in just over 12 months, after Bacup’s South Street job centre was axed in August 2013. Eight staff are understood to be affected and they could be relocated other East Lancashire centres.

Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans said: “I am totally opposed to this. It is already stressful enough for people who have to travel from rural areas into Clitheroe — now we are asking them to travel even further.

“I am sick and tired that because unemployment is low in the Ribble Valley it is felt that we do not deserve this facility. People in the borough pay their taxes like everyone else and this job centre should remain open.”

County councillor Ian Brown, who represents Clitheroe division, said: “The staff in there work really hard and it would be such a shame. I’m not sure that the decision is final yet but I understand it is the only one being considered for closure locally.”

A spokesman for the Public and Commercial Services Union said: “To close job centres at a time when unemployment and under-employment remain high is entirely wrong.

“The government should be investing in job centres so they are better placed to help people find work and training.”

A DWP spokesman said: “We are consulting on relocating our services in Clitheroe to our office in Blackburn. This will still allow claimants access to the full range of Job Centre Plus services while providing better value for money.

“Our proposals take into account the needs of the most vulnerable claimants in Clitheroe, who we appreciate may not be able to travel to Blackburn, and job centre advisers would be available in an office a short distance from the current job centre in Clitheroe.”