UK Politics

Councils 'could cut youth unemployment by 20%'

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionDavid Sparks from the LGA says they want the government to have a 'hands-off' approach

Attempts to cut youth unemployment in England are being hampered by excessive bureaucracy and central government control, council leaders say.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said increased local control could see youth unemployment cut by 20%.

In a report, the LGA said the present system was "overly complicated".

But a spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said there were "encouraging signs" that youth unemployment was on a downward trend.

The DWP insists all programmes are "run locally". However the LGA said delivery of central government schemes did not amount to local control.

The LGA's David Simmonds said the current system was "simply not being effective".

"Local councils tend to be much more in touch with these young people who are facing long-term unemployment," he said.

"They tend to know them through the services that they already provide to them and they are therefore in a much stronger position to work with them directly."

Employment gap

According to the LGA's research, there are currently 33 different national schemes, covering 13 different age boundaries, costing £15bn a year.

More than 94,000 people completed hair and beauty courses last year, even though there were only 18,000 new jobs in the sector, it added.

By contrast, in construction, around 123,000 people were trained for around 275,000 advertised jobs.

The LGA said this was partly caused by colleges being paid for every student who receives a qualification, regardless of the local need for those skills.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme from a studio in Coventry, Mr Simmonds added: "Here we have seen Jaguar Land Rover having a massive expansion.

"That's something which it's very difficult for government to plan for but the local council - which is aware of what's going on through the planning process, it knows the families who are already working at the factory, it tends to know the people who are managing things - is in a good position to see what sort of trends are coming down the track.

Mr Simmonds said the LGA is "challenging" the government to improve the situation.

"What is available, some of which is a legacy (from previous governments), some of which is new, is not helping to address the issue of long-term youth unemployment in the way that it should," he said.

"We feel that by joining some of these things up at a local level, very much in the spirit of the localism agenda which has been set out by the government, we can actually begin to get some of the young people back into work."

Power struggle

The report highlighted a number of areas where local authorities have little or no control, such as the Work Programme, which pays organisations based on their success at getting people into work.

The LGA said the current system is disjointed and offers organisations little incentive to work together, and the report concluded that councils should be the main commissioners of all employment programmes for young people.

On Thursday Liam Byrne, the shadow work and pensions secretary, accused the Government of "Stalinesque" interference in the work of local job centres.

The DWP spokesman said: "Youth unemployment has been a big challenge for a decade but we've seen encouraging signs recently with the number of long-term unemployed young people falling last month.

"Through Jobcentre Plus we're already working locally with businesses and councils to help young people into work so unemployment continues to fall, and our Youth Contract will help nearly 500,000 young people over the next three years.

"And this autumn we will launch a new Traineeship programme which help those who do not have the right experience or qualifications to get an apprenticeship or find a job."

Speaking about the mismatch between the number of people training for certain professions and the number of jobs available, the spokesman said the government recently announced it would provide more information to students about their local job market so they could make "informed choices".

More on this story