Labour is ready to bankroll Bradford’s pioneering ‘back to work’ scheme, convinced it is the best solution to high unemployment.
Ed Miliband’s party will – if it wins power – axe the private sector-led ‘Work Programme’, because it is failing to find jobs for the “hardest to help”.
Instead, cash will be funnelled through local councils, or local enterprise partnerships (LEPs), which will organise job creation programmes for their areas.
And the model will be the Bradford Council’s much-praised Get Bradford Working Employment Opportunities Fund which gives the young jobless a paid 12-month work placement.
At present, the £7.7 million programme has to be funded by the cash-starved Council. Crucially, under Labour’s plans, Whitehall would pay – allowing it to expand dramatically.
Speaking to the Telegraph & Argus, Andy Sawford, Labour’s local government spokesman, said: “Bradford is very good on this. We are looking at what they’ve been doing.
“What councils can do is help everyone seeking work back into work, through their economic development role and way they can connect services “The Work Programme – after an absolutely dreadful start – is, in some areas, starting to get some more people back into work. But it’s not helping the hardest to help, because what’s clearly happening is that the private sector contractors go for those who are easiest to help. We want to help everybody.”
The move comes after Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, the Labour-run Council’s executive member for employment, was asked to explain its jobs programme to shadow ministers face-to-face.
A delighted Coun Hinchcliffe said: “We pay people the minimum wage, in a real job providing real experience – and that’s what works for the long-term unemployed. It’s been disappointing that this Government has not been willing to fund our model, but that’s what Labour seems to be moving towards.
“If we have Government money to do it, that will mean we can expand the programme and help more long-term unemployed.” Get Bradford Working has created 400 new jobs and placed people in a further 525 existing posts, as well creating hundreds more work placements.
Criticism has been levelled at the £5bn Work Programme, which pays private-sector giants on a payment-by-results basis.
The latest figures show 2,420 people in Bradford have been put into jobs for at least six months – but that is only one in seven of the 17,540 who have taken part. Under Labour’s plans, councils or LEPs would help commission back-to-work schemes, from charities and smaller private firms, or run them outright.
Mr Sawford said: “The current Work Programme contracts come up in 2016 and will not be renewed. That’s the point when this will take effect.”
Meanwhile, MPs on the Communities and Local Government Select Committee are examining what financial powers should be devolved from London.
They will be asked to recommend a Royal Commission on the relationship between Whitehall and councils, a suggestion put forward by York City Council.