Centres aimed at creating jobs set to close

DMBC
DMBC

UNder-threat Opportunity Centres which cost almost £1,200 for each Doncaster resident finding employment is good value for taxpayers, according to a senior councillor.

Doncaster Council has reviewed the 11 centres, which provide training and advice to the unemployed, as it looks to make savings in the 2012/13 budget.

Council officers have projected a budget shortfall of £231,000 if the current model stays in place.

Seven centres have been saved by integrating into libraries. Councillors agreed the remaining four must find alternative facilities or face closure next March.

Julie Grant, assistant director of customer services and ICT, said only 267 out of 2,212 people using the service between April and October found employment.

The report added: “Unfortunately the take-up is still extremely low. It has cost £1,194 to get each one into employment.”

But Coun Richard Cooper-Holmes, vice-chair of the council’s regeneration and environment overview and scrutiny panel, believes the figures have been portrayed negatively by council officers.

He said: “If you have a look at what employment companies like A4E and Serco are paid to get unemployed people into a job the figures are about a third of those.

“So that’s a really good result.”

Coun Cooper-Holmes also argued the centre in his Rossington ward, one of the four earmarked for closure, was the only hope some residents had of finding work.

Scott Cardwell, the council’s assistant director for development, said the scheme’s funding had been slashed from £7 million to £2 million per year.

He added: “Big changes since the opportunity centres were initially envisaged have been forced by public sector cuts. They have pulled the rug from under the model.”

Centres in Denaby, Intake and Stainforth are also under-threat.