CUTS SHUT TOWN CAREER CENTRE

Connexions in Eastwood is closing down, Emily Jones and Mike Dunn.
Connexions in Eastwood is closing down, Emily Jones and Mike Dunn.

EASTWOOD has once again been left counting the cost of Government cuts after the town’s Connexions job advice centre closed its doors for the final time on Friday.

The move comes after Nottinghamshire County Council slashed the Connexions’ budget by £700,000 forcing three offices to close and 60 posts to be axed.

The Eastwood office closed its doors after 23 years on Friday February 18 – just a week after the Advertiser revealed the town’s homeless hostel was earmarked to have its council grant pulled, leaving it at risk of closure.

Staff at the Nottingham Road office, some of whom have worked there for as long as 22 years, are being moved to offices in Nottingham and Kirkby-in-Ashfield while redundancy plans are looked at.

Fliss Elder has worked at the office for 14 years and is being shipped to Nottingham.

She said: “It’s pretty gutting to be honest. We are not very happy. I live locally and I am committed to the local community.

“I know all the children and families and have seen them for all these years and they are moving me to Nottingham where I don’t know anyone.”

Whilst Connexions originally worked with teenagers, it recently started helping adults with employment advice too.

And with the announcement this week that unemployment amongst 16- to 24-year-olds is at an all-time high nationwide, there are fears about the timing of the closure and what it could mean to unemployed people in Eastwood.

But bosses at Connexions say they have made moves to ensure the loss of the office does not have too much of a negative impact the town.

Members of staff from the Eastwood office will now hold weekly drop-in advice sessions at the town’s library, and will also work from the new youth centre in Derby Road when it opens next year.

Connexions Eastwood will also be continuing with its careers advice service in schools as normal.

The county’s operations manager Emily Jones said: “I think it’s really, really sad that it’s come to this.

“We have some incredibly talented staff and we provide a fantastic service.

“The young people in Eastwood can be quite isolated because of the town’s location and because it’s a high deprivation area.

“We have had a presence in Eastwood for many, many years and it’s the end of an era.”

The Eastwood office and two branches in Nottingham, including head office, have been picked for closure because the leases are up on the buildings.

More offices across the county will close throughout the year as the leases come to an end.

Ms Jones said: “We had to look at expenditure and which leases we could get rid of quickly.

“As other leases come up we will be looking at them to see if the staff could be re-located.”

Ms Jones said by closing down offices they could keep more members of staff on.

On top of the county council cuts, Connexions has lost cash from other organisations, including Nottingham City Council, causing a total budget deficit of £2m next year.

Staff will be told if they will be keeping their jobs after a redundancy consultation comes to an end mid-March.

The service is facing cutbacks nationwide, with the office in Ilkeston also being threatened with closure.