MAYFIELD'S Centrelink office would permanently close and merge into a new mega-office in Newcastle under plans tabled by the Morrison government.
Newcastle federal MP Sharon Claydon revealed the plan to shift the existing offices on Sunday, after receiving a letter from the Minister for Government Services last week which explained how the Department of Human Services will next month approach the market for a new leased premises.
Minister Stuart Robert said five existing tenancies would be consolidated into a single building from 2022 at a location in Newcastle's central business district - now considered the city's west end - and identified Wickham and Honeysuckle as options given their "close proximity to public transport".
"This consolidation will include face-to-face services currently delivered from the Newcastle and Mayfield services centres and staff undertaking non face-to-face functions in Newcastle," he said. "A face-to-face service centre will form part of the consolidated premises."
Mr Robert said the consolidation would be "beneficial to both our customers and staff" and ensure services continued to be delivered in "the most professional and cost effective way".
However Ms Claydon has slammed the move, saying it would be detrimental to service delivery.
She said it was too early to tell if staff numbers would be affected, but with the rise of web-based services she had concerns they would be.
"I'm profoundly concerned that what the government describes as 'consolidation' may be experienced by people in our community as a loss of services or access - especially as the plan includes the closure of a key suburban office in Mayfield," she said.
"I'm also worried what this might mean for staff and have sought assurances from the minister there will be no forced redundancies."
Ms Claydon said the changes would be a blow for Centrelink customers.
"In recent years, Centrelink has been, without contest, the number one issue my constituents come to me for help with," she said.
"By the time they reach out to me, they are often at their wits end after waiting fruitlessly on the phone for hours for someone to answer. Given this clear need for improvement, I am very concerned by any proposal that suggests a net reduction in physical offices."
In response to Ms Claydon's concerns, Department of Human Services general manager Hank Jongen said "no departmental jobs will be lost due to this change".
"As leases come up for renewal, we take the opportunity to review our servicing options to ensure we continue to keep pace of the changing needs of the community," he said.
"Before any services are brought together, we assess many factors, including the convenience and benefit to the community in accessing services under one roof, proximity of other service centres, the demand for services in the community and to provide a broader range of services from an easy to access location."