Conservative Diary


11 Sep 2013 10:59:18

The same refrain from the employment statistics: good topline figures, but problems persist in the detail

By Mark Wallace
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The ONS' Labour Market Statistics paint a familiar picture today:

  • Employment is up, both in terms of the headcount (29.84 million, up 80,000 on the previous quarter and up 275,000 from a year ago) and as a percentage (71.6 per cent, up 0.2 percentage points on the previous quarter and 0.4 percentage points from a year ago)
  • Unemployment is down, in terms of the headcount (2.49 million, down 24,000 on the previous quarter and 105,000 over the year) and as a percentage (7.7 per cent, down 0.1 percentage on the quarter and 0.4 percentage points on the year). This means we have crept a little closer to the 7 per cent boundary at which Mark Carney will consider raising interest rates
  • The number of people who are economically inactive is also down on both counts (22.3 per cent, down 0.1 percentage points on the quarter and 0.2 percentage points on the year; 8.96 million people in total , down 33,000 on the quarter and 52,000 from a year ago)

The latter statistic is particularly interesting - this represents people of working age who are for one reason or another not seeking work, or not able to work. As such, it includes carers, students, the disabled and so on, who for obvious reasons often find it difficult to move into the workforce. A reduction in these figures without a rise in unemployment is a positive sign both economically and socially.

There are still problems, though.

Youth unemployment rose on the previous quarter by 9,000. The picture is slightly confusing - as Lottie Dexter from the Million Jobs campaign points out, that is a 9,000 rise from 951,000 in February-April 2013 to 960,000 in May-July 2013, but we also know from last month's release that the figure for April-June 2013 was 973,000. Therefore while things got worse in April-June, there is some sign they improved in July.

In practice, this means there is a fluctuation around the 950,000 - 970,000 mark, bumping up and down. Whichever way you look at it, that is too high. 

There are other issues - for example, while the economy's flexibility cushioned the impact of the recession by allowing people to become part-time rather than pitching them into outright unemployment, we have yet to see that phenomenon reversed. The proportion of workers in part-time unemployment who would like to have a full-time job is just about static:

As I said last month, now the overall employment figures are improving, more focus is needed on those at risk of being left behind.

20 Jun 2013 14:28:19

The Work Programme is working

By Harry Phibbs
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If you read the Financial Times this morning you would have a seen a report that the Work Programme was proving effective, other newspaper reports were more negative.

Last November the programme had been criticised although it had placed "only" 200,000 people into jobs. Whether or not that criticism was reasonable it has certainly made progress. The independent Employment Related Services Association published new data today, stating that 321,000 people have entered work as a direct result of the Work Programme

The ERSA go on to say:

  • A third of all individuals who have been on the programme for at least a year have found employment.
  • The Work Programme is proving particularly effective in tackling youth unemployment, with 88,000 young people on Jobseekers Allowance on the programme found work by the end of March 2013.  Of those young people who had been on the scheme for at least a year, 45% had had a Job Start, while 49% of those who had been on the programme the longest had entered work.
  • The rate at which providers are placing jobseekers into work is increasing. All months since May 2012 show a higher number of people entering work than at a comparable point in the previous year.

Is the Work Programme good value for money? It certainly is for the taxpayer. Those companies and charities running the programme are paid by results. There is an incentive to innovate, to cater to the needs of the individual. It is the biggest ever payments by results programme the DWP have undertaken. Theer are over voluntary sector groups who are having a go - including Mencap, the Citizen's Advice Bureau, youth charity The Prince's Trust and Action for Blind People.

Continue reading "The Work Programme is working" »

16 Dec 2012 13:53:36

CCHQ launches attack ad in marginal constituencies contrasting "hardworking families" with "people who don't work"

By Matthew Barrett
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After PMQs on Wednesday, Labour launched a campaign, the price of Tory failure, which attacks the Government's welfare policies. The idea is to target 60 marginal Tory seats where the number of families receiving in-work tax credits is greater than the MP's majority.

HardworkingCCHQ have responded with a hard-hitting campaign in the same 60 seats. In targeted online media, banner ads contrasting "hardworking families" and "people who don't work", illustrated by a man sitting at home on his sofa, will be displayed on local media websites. This echoes one of the most successful policies of the Coalition - the welfare cap.

The first ad can be seen here, and the second ad (pictured right) here. The ads lead to a survey on the Conservative website - "Who do you think the government should be giving help to?".

Grant Shapps has often spoken about his use of surveys and petitions to drive up Conservative support in his Welwyn Hatfield constituency. Now as the Chairman of the Conservative Party, Shapps is using the same method to collect email addresses, communicate with respondents, and spread the Conservative message.

Continue reading "CCHQ launches attack ad in marginal constituencies contrasting "hardworking families" with "people who don't work"" »

28 Aug 2012 12:48:39

Chris Grayling announces London-wide scheme to end something-for-nothing benefits culture

By Matthew Barrett
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Welfare reform is one of the Government's favourite rallying calls, and rightly so. There is a basic sense of justice and fair play that causes most Britons to feel repulsed by the situation Labour allowed to come about, in which an out of work household could claim benefits greater than the average wage (£26,000) for households who do work. 

Another part of the benefits system which many people consider unjust is the principle of allowing people to claim from the welfare system without ever having contributed to the state. 

GRAYLING-OPEN-SHIRTOne right-minded Minister who has consistently stood up for taxpayers and attacked these unfair and outdated welfare policies, despite plenty of left-wing attacks, is Chris Grayling. Mr Grayling has written an article for the Evening Standard today, announcing a rather exciting London-wide trial scheme - which he will launch with Boris Johnson: 

"Later this year we will begin a scheme where we will ask young Londoners signing on for the first time to do three months of full time community work in return for their benefits. As part of the scheme, they will also receive support in looking for jobs and getting themselves ready for the world of work. Every young person who has done less than six months previous work will be asked to take part – and if they refuse they will not be able to claim benefits."

Continue reading "Chris Grayling announces London-wide scheme to end something-for-nothing benefits culture" »

25 Jun 2012 12:27:36

Is the real clash of interests in British politics between older and younger voters?

By Paul Goodman
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David Cameron's proposed reforms to housing benefit are partly about increasing opportunity and party about saving money.

Oh, and differentiating his party from the Liberal Democrats.  Which is a reminder that it's possible that none of his plans may be effected, since we don't know what parts of them Nick Clegg's party would agree to in this Parliament, if any, and there's no guarantee of a Conservative Government in the next one.

On increasing opportunity, I think that the Prime Minister is right.  Drawing housing benefit and being workless at 18 isn't a likely route to improvement and prosperity.  However, I would like to see the detail (of which there may not much, given Mr Cameron's working timescale).  He says that his proposals "would not apply to victims of domestic violence".  What about others who can't live with their parents - for example, the 60,000 or so children in care?  And if living with one's parents is our working presumption - because renting let alone buying for many younger people is unaffordable - how does this square with labour market mobility?

Continue reading "Is the real clash of interests in British politics between older and younger voters?" »

2 May 2012 08:26:48

Chris Grayling announces new action against health and safety burdens... but extra paternity rights are coming

By Tim Montgomerie
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Chris Grayling launches a renewed effort to tackle Britain's Health and Safety culture today. In remarks to business leaders he will stress the importance of making Britain more competitive:

"We have a simple and straightforward choice. If we want people to have jobs, we have to recognise just how different and competitive the world has become. And that means we have to change in response. We need lower taxes and less red tape for business, or jobs will go elsewhere. That’s why we are cutting health and safety bureaucracy. We're making good progress and I am determined to cut the number of health and safety regulations in half. Of course we have to protect people against death and serious injury in the workplace, and we won't do anything to risk this, but if we stifle their employers with unneeded rules and regulations those people won’t have a job in the first place."

The Employment Minister will announce new guidance that will "help prevent businesses being duped into carrying out unnecessary electrical safety tests". The savings to UK plc could be £30 million. A Government press release stated other 'elf'n'safety improvements undertaken by the government. They include:

  • Exempting a million self-employed people from health and safety rules altogether;
  • Cutting the number of health and safety inspections by a third, and exempting low risk premises from routine inspection;
  • Establishing a register of qualified health and safety consultants, to stamp out unqualified cowboy advisers who give the wrong guidance to companies;
  • Establishing Myth Busting panels for both the public and for businesses to give them an easy way of challenging daft decisions;
  • Reducing requirements for businesses to report minor accidents;
  • Putting in place tight new rules for personal injury claims, to stop no win no fee lawyers making large amounts of money from relatively small workplace claims;
  • Rewriting and simplifying all existing health and safety guidance and cutting the total number of regulations in half.

Continue reading "Chris Grayling announces new action against health and safety burdens... but extra paternity rights are coming" »

20 Jan 2012 13:27:34

Today's Boris interview in the Sun is a reminder of how effective his campaigning is

By Joseph Willits 
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Boris3After yesterday's YouGov poll which placed Boris Johnson two points behind Ken Livingstone in the race to become London's Mayor, a timely interview today in the Sun demonstrates Boris' ability yet again to draw on the national interest in jobs and immigration, and develop a balanced message for his electoral campaign.

Whilst Government figures have revealed that 370,000 migrants are claiming benefits in the UK, and unemployment has hit a seventeen year high of 2.68 million, it would seem an obvious, not to mention populist choice, for Johnson to claim that immigration has failed and is damaging the jobs market for young Brits.

Instead, Boris chose to focus his attention on the lack of "energy and appetite" among young people in the UK to go out to work. Johnson said that he did not "want to stigmatise young people because many of them do have the aptitude. But we need to face up to these issues". At the same time, he cited the increasingly popular analogy of Pret A Manger and work ethic from their foreign staff:

"Look at Pret a Manger. If you've been to one recently, how many native Londoners served you? What's going on? London is a fantastic creator of jobs — but many of these jobs are going to people who don't originate in this country. They are hard-working, good people, and we need to learn from them and understand what it is that they have got that makes them able to get those jobs that young Londoners don't have."

Continue reading "Today's Boris interview in the Sun is a reminder of how effective his campaigning is" »

12 Oct 2011 10:27:53

As unemployment rises, Chris Grayling says: Britain can't escape world economic turbulence

By Matthew Barrett
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Grayling-Red-TieChris Grayling has done the media rounds this morning, reacting to news about unemployment - the figures for which showed that the number out of work rose by 114,000 between June and August to 2.57m, and that youth unemployment rose by 74,000 to 991,000 - a record high.

Grayling told John Humphrys on the Today programme that the government is very concerned about youth unemployment, and announced a new scheme on the programme: 

"For example, for young people today we are launching out new sector-based work academies, part of a programme that will offer 350,000 places for young people to get support back into the workplace over the next two years. All the people I talk to express concern about youth unemployment and we want to see young people getting into the workplace as soon as possible. We have created 100,000 new apprenticeships since the elections. The combination of our work experience programme and the sector-based work academies... it’s all designed to give people under 24 who have not been in employment the chance to take that first step into the workplace, to show an employer what they can do and hopefully then move on into an apprenticeship."

Continue reading "As unemployment rises, Chris Grayling says: Britain can't escape world economic turbulence" »

2 Oct 2011 21:19:02

IDS says any tax cuts should be aimed at the poor

By Paul Goodman
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Poorer people should be the priority for any tax cuts the Coalition Government makes, Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said yesterday evening.

He also indicated that Britain could seek a retrospective treaty change in the battle over European Commission demands over foreign benefit claimants.

Speaking at a conference fringe meeting held by ConservativeHome, Duncan Smith also said that the riots showed that there is a "growing underclass" in Britain.

He hopes to announce a major childcare package "in about a week's time" and said that he has taken "personal charge" of implementing Universal Credit.

Continue reading "IDS says any tax cuts should be aimed at the poor" »

14 Sep 2011 10:41:48

Chris Grayling says new unemployment figures "will reinvigorate our determination" to get the economy going again

By Matthew Barrett
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Grayling Chris NewsnightUnemployment figures released this morning were negative for the government. The figures show that for May through to July 2011, unemployment increased by 80,000 - bringing the total up to 2.51m.

Chris Grayling, the Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions with responsibility for employment, told the BBC News channel that the figures demonstrate the hard task the government faces, but that the government will have its determination to deal with the problem "reinvigorated":

"It underlines the nature of the challenge we face, and I think will reinvigorate our determination to take steps that will get the economy growing, to support business and try and create an environment where the private sector can continue to grow the number of people it employs. It is in fact still growing - the number of jobs in the private sector - we have to give them even more support to do more."

Continue reading "Chris Grayling says new unemployment figures "will reinvigorate our determination" to get the economy going again" »