Working together

As I am rapidly discovering in this job, on most days there is a blend of good news and bad news.

The latest unemployment figures show that since January there has been a 87% rise in young people out of work for at least 6 months in the North West, but in Blackpool South, there has been a staggering 223% rise, and in Blackpool North and Cleveleys youth unemployment has risen by 283%. 

Last week we received confirmation that officially, between 20% and 25% of our young people are considered to be ‘not in education, employment or training’ (NEET in the jargon term for this, which we’re going to have to get used to hearing I’m afraid). In actual fact, however these figures mask a bigger problem – substantially more of our young people are notionally in some form of employment or training, but not actually undertaking activities that most of us would consider to be sustainable – there are all sorts of “training opportunities” out there, which don’t lead to much more than a certificate, and an awful lot of jobs which have few, if any prospects – often even any prospect of still being in existence beyond the first weekend in November. 

I would go so far as to suggest that in the region of HALF of our 16-24 year olds are not in stable education or employment.

As of October (crucially, BEFORE the season ended) there were more than 8 Jobseekers Allowance claimants for every job advertised in Blackpool Job Centres – compared to just over 4 this time last year. That means that on average, there are twice as many people chasing everyBlackpooljob as there are in the region as a whole. Last year, we were able to use the Future Jobs Fund to create 159 six months job opportunities in Blackpool (half of these people went on to get permanent jobs) – but sadly, the Government has stopped funding this scheme.

Add to this the loss of thousands of civil service jobs which are planned over the coming 12-24 months – I met members of the PCS union last week to discuss this problem, and have agreed to help them in their lobbying- and the potential loss of over 1000 posts at BAE in Warton – again, something that I have discussed with workplace representatives from UNITE the union – and we have a potential timebomb to deal with.

I am working with the Leader of Lancashire County Council, and the MP for Blackpool South, to make sure that an Enterprise Zone (and a meaningful one at that) is created in Warton, and I will be pressing the Government on arrangements for an Apprenticeship centre on this site – which is within the travel-to-work area for our young people. 

I have asked the Chief Executive to look at how the Council and its partner organisations make use of apprenticeships, and to look at ways of further encouraging our sub-contractors to use 100% local labour wherever humanly possible.  I met with Tourism Minister John Penrose MP earlier this week, and discussed proposals for a ‘Tourism Development Zone’ right here in Blackpool, which would offer incentives for existing private business to grow and new ones to relocate to the area, and I discussed a possible reduction in VAT with both him, and Ed Miliband, on his recent visit to Blackpool.

On the good news front, we’ve launched the ‘Give a little – help a lot’ campaign. The brainchild of my Deputy Leader’s wife, Pam Jackson, this represents a practical, here and now, approach to the issues of child poverty I’ve written about before. We are asking people to donate cash, toys or food to our appeal, to ensure that no child in Blackpool is left out this Christmas. 

We know that lots of good work goes on every year to do this, not least through organisations like the Salvation Army – but this year, we decided that the situation was so acute; it simply wasn’t possible to do too much.  I’ve been delighted by the response we’ve had so far, and we’ve only just got going. Council staff have been fantastic, and we’ve had some very generous individual donations as well.

What ties these two issues together, however, is the support I have had from the private sector and voluntary sector in the town. Both in my attempts to persuade the Government of the need to continue to invest in Blackpool (and to give us the tools to help ourselves to grow and regenerate) and in our attempts to get the ‘Give a little…’ campaign up and running. 

Merlin, Pleasure Beach Blackpool, Churches, Faith Groups, The Gazette, StayBlackpool and Blackpool BID, to name but a few, have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us in our campaigning for the town, and I do not doubt they will continue to do so. 

We need more of this. Working together to build the town’s reputation and profile can only be a positive move. We need to be honest with ourselves, and our neighbours, about what the problems are – respect each others strengths and weaknesses, and allow those with good ideas to get on and turn them into action. 

Public, private, community and voluntary sectors demonstrating to the Government exactly what we are capable of, and earning the trust and the confidence of those who can assist us in our collective aims – that’s what it is all about. 

Thanks everyone!

SHB

*To find out more about how you can help with the ‘Give a Little, Help a Lot’ campaign, click here

5 thoughts on “Working together

  1. Whilst youth unemployment clearly requires a broad economic strategy to tackle the underlying issues of growth in the job market within Blackpool, it is also unsurprising that these statistics coincide with significant cuts to the very services that support young people gaining employability skills and job searching. Approximately 60% of front line staff from Connexions and the wider youth services were axed earlier in the year, leaving a huge gap in the support required for the young people of the town. Until this is addressed, I’m afraid that these saddening figures will only increase and result in further cost implications for other local services. I’d be interested to know how the labour administration of the town plans to tackle this aspect of the issue as well as supporting enterprise zones out in Warton. Whilst these may technically be in the travel to work zone for residents it is highly unlikely that the young people of the town would have the life skills, support or resources to access any opportunities created!

    • Sharon – you are right that the cuts to Connexions were a retrograde step. I’ve spoken today with Connexions staff and our Positive Steps team, and I am going to facilitate a meeting to discuss the issues you, and they have raised with me, which I shall feed back on in a future blog post. I accept your point about Warton, but given that the Government’s Enterprise Zone rules are designed in such a way that a Blackpool Enterprise Zone is highly improbable, we have to work with what they will give us. Warton may not be convenient, but it’s more convenient than Salmesbury. We are also exploring what more we, as a council, and our contractors can do to employ young, local people, as vacancies arise.

  2. Does 100% employment locally extend to the council aswell especially positions of authority or leadership?Also does it apply to the Police Fire Ambulance services?

    • Hi Lee. I would like the Council to employ as many of its staff as possible from within the Blackpool boundary, and we set targets of upwards of 85% local labour for many of our contractors but we need to do more. Inevitably, some staff will travel to work in Blackpool, but they still contribute a great deal to the local economy. I’m not sure how the Blue Light services you refer to deal with local employment issues, but I can ask!

      • Thankyou for your answer.I think it helps the younger people to aspire to public sector work when they see people who live around them working in the town.I also think that it helps break down boundaries of perception and humanises public sector workers more.Sometimes its easy to forget that people who work for agencies and the council have some of the same issues and normal family lives.If they live here they then do have the same issues and a greater understanding of any that may arise.

Comment here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s