Labour's Policy Review explores radical ideas to tackle unemployment blackspots
Labour is exploring radical plans to give local authorities and regional bodies a new role in cutting our dole queues – and bring down benefit spending - by helping to shape the way billions of pounds in employment funding is spent.
The party publishes a report today, "No Place Left Behind," just two days after new Labour Market figures revealed that Britain’s jobs crisis is deepening.
In his speech "The Road to Full Employment" to IPPR North yesterday Liam Byrne attacked the Government's comprehensive failure to reskill unemployed people for local jobs and say the time has come to unlock the power of local councils in tackling Britain’s jobs crisis. Labour is also looking at approaches in Canada and Germany where local authorities are more involved in back to work programmes, regeneration funding and re-training – saving billions in benefit payments on the way.
He argues that in tough times and an era when there is less money around, Britain needs a similar approach because it is more important than ever that the £3billion allocated for the Work Programme is properly spent and that long term unemployment – one of the chief factors in driving up social security bills – is properly tackled.
Mr Byrne contrasts the pioneering work of the Glasgow City Council, the Welsh National Government, Newham and Liverpool in tackling youth unemployment with the failure of the Government's Youth Contract and Work Programme, which have now been shown to perform worse than doing nothing.
He renewed his call for Ministers to bring in Labour's Compulsory Jobs Guarantee to ensure that anyone locked out of work for more than two years – or one if they are under 25 – is offered a real paid job, one they would be required to take of face losing their benefits.
Byrne highlights new figures showing over half of Britain's unskilled are now out of work – a new record.
He argues that Iain Duncan Smith is now comprehensively failing the 'Easterhouse test' he set himself of tackling worklessness in Britain’s poorest communities.
Publishing new figures from the House of Commons library, Mr Byrne shows:
• On three quarters of Britain’s estates where unemployment is highest, unemployment is getting worse.
• On two thirds of those estates, long term unemployment is getting worse.
• Cuts to poorer communities are biggest where jobs are fewest
Drawing on the lessons of the 1944 white paper on full employment, Mr Byrne will back the principles set out by Michael Heseltine for much greater devolution of power to local councils but argue that Iain Duncan Smith is now a "road-block to reform" preventing councils from making a difference tackling dole queues.
When old industries were wiped out in the 1980s, former workers were left high and dry without skills for the future or hope for the future. No wonder so many still yearn for the past.
Britain's unemployment hot-spots now compete with the fast-growing cities in the world's new economies. Low skilled wages in some of Britain's competitors are twelve times lower than here in Britain. The result is over half of unskilled workers are out of work – and unskilled communities are left behind.
Mr Byrne points to reforms in both Canada and Germany:
In Canada localised delivery of back to work programmes gives local government the flexibility to establish their own priorities. Measures include:
• Skills development support: financial assistance for individuals to arrange to obtain skills for employment
• Targeted wage subsidies: to encourage employers to hire people they would not normally hire
• Job Creation Partnerships: to provide individuals with opportunities to gain work experience that leads to sustained employment
In Germany, job centres work closely with surrounding schools and have deep roots in the local labour market which allows them to engage with employers far beyond the traditional low skill, low pay sectors.
Byrne suggests local government is well placed to coordinate programmes for skills, education, worklessness, transport, physical regeneration, health, housing, economic development and planning.
Labour research shows councils believe the DWP is far too centralising; councils want Minsters to get out of the way so they can get on with the business of getting people back to work. Top authorities have told Labour that DWP officials can hold them back by; working to incorrect assumptions dreamt up in Whitehall that bear no relationship to individual areas, implementing top down policies without consultation that are often completely wrong for local communities; and an inability to share data that wastes money and prevents experts on the ground from joining up services to get people into jobs.