Wales politics

Jobs Growth Wales scheme hailed by Labour closes

Dave Povah
Image caption Jobs Growth Wales helped young people into work

A flagship Welsh government youth job creation scheme has been temporarily closed while approval for a new one is awaited from the EU.

The Welsh government said Jobs Growth Wales had not been scrapped and placements would continue.

Last year, the scheme's budget was cut in order for cash to go to the NHS.

But the Labour-run Welsh government said this had not affected the scheme which had hit all its targets. Criticism has followed the closure.

Chancellor George Osborne from the Conservative party, said the decision to temporarily close the scheme pointed to "confusion" within labour after party leader Ed Miliband had said he wanted the programme to be rolled out across the country.

Campaigning in the Vale of Glamorgan, Mr Osborne said: "I remember the Labour party urging me to take this scheme across the whole of the UK. Now they are cutting it in Wales.

Image caption Ed Miliband said he wanted to use Jobs Growth Wales as a model for the rest of the UK

"What it points to is real confusion in the Labour party. They don't really have a clear plan for Wales and I think Wales as a result would suffer with lost jobs, lost investment."

Other parties also criticised the decision with Jenny Willott, for the Liberal Democrats, saying Jobs Growth Wales had been "ineffective".

"However, for the Welsh Labour Government to allow this scheme to expire without replacing it is staggering," she said.

And Ian Johnson, a Plaid Cymru election candidate, added: "Earlier this year, Ed Miliband said how great the scheme was.

"Today, he has been embarrassed by his only government in the UK, who have fundamentally undermined his election pledge to young people."

Meanwhile, UKIP's leader in Wales Nathan Gill called on ministers to "focus on creating the right conditions for existing businesses to expand and for new businesses to start".

"The only way we will ever truly achieve this is to withdraw from the European Union, which spends each day dreaming up new ways of stifling innovation and creativity in the form of regulations and directives," he said.

But the Welsh government said it was aiming to launch a new Jobs Growth Wales programme in May saying it has made a "significant contribution to reducing youth unemployment right across Wales".

"The original programme was designed to create and fill 12,000 jobs and to date it has helped create over 17,000 job opportunities and fill almost 15,000 of these vacancies for young people aged 16-24," a spokesperson said.

"The European Social Fund budget for the 2007-2013 programme came to an end on 31 March and we have already begun work on the successor programme.

"Subject to approval within the new European Social Fund for 2014-2020 we are aiming to launch the new Jobs Growth Wales programme in the first quarter of this financial year."

Analysis by Nick Servini, BBC Wales political editor

The thrust of the criticism here is that if Jobs Growth Wales is so important to the Welsh economy then how come it has been allowed to come to a halt, albeit temporarily, and how come funding has been reduced?

The opposition parties have seized on developments partly because barely a week goes by without a member of the Welsh government trumpeting the success of its back-to-work scheme.

The Welsh government insists it is not being scrapped and has responded to criticism over continuity by pointing to the fact that anyone about to begin or in the middle of a six-month placement will not be affected.

It says officials have already worked up a new scheme and are awaiting approval from the EU within a month.

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