RUNCORN Jobcentre is to move from its current location in Trident Retail Park after ‘fire risks’ were identified.

A safety assessment deems the building safe to remain open for now provided the risk is managed and there is a plan to address the situation.

The centre, within Andrew House, will close by September 2024 but the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says it is ‘committed to retaining a jobcentre presence in Runcorn town centre’.

However, back-office staff will be expected to permanently relocate to a base in Birkenhead, almost 25 miles away, or face redeployment.

Weaver Vale MP Mike Amesbury was informed of developments in a letter from Mims Davies MP, Minister for Social Mobility, Youth and Progression.

He said: “Questions arise from this communication, that has come out of the blue. There’s a stated commitment to retain a jobcentre in Runcorn but the change is bound to generate a sense of insecurity for job seekers and staff alike.

“I hope I will be consulted as part of the process to find alternative premises. Any new jobcentre needs to be in a nearby, central location and I’m not reassured given back-office staff are being asked to move to Birkenhead.

“This will be a big change in their working lives, potentially entailing longer travel times and extra costs for locally-based employees.”

Mr Amesbury will be writing to the minister seeking clarity around the issues raised.

Ms Davies wrote in her letter: “As part of improvement works planned for Runcorn, Andrew House, a fire risk was identified with the design layout of the building.

“To make the necessary improvements to the building, the site would need to close for a minimum of 12 months with costs estimated at around £3m. This is not a good use of taxpayers’ money and so the department has been exploring the best long-term solution for colleagues and services based there.

“A new risk assessment provided assurances the building is safe to occupy, so long as fire risks continue to be managed and a plan is in place to address the situation.

“The department has therefore extended the lease from November 2023 to October 2024 to allow time to find the best solution for the future provision of jobcentre services in the area.”

Jobcentre services will continue to be delivered from Andrew House until August 2024.