Tagged: local authorities

Tory councils tell Osborne “No more cuts!”

Order Of Truth

torynomorecutsIt appears that even stanch Conservatives have had enough of the inner-circle of government’s ‘austerity’ measures.

In an unusual move, Conservative led local authorities have formed an alliance with Labour and LibDem led authorities to tell Osborne enough is enough.

The Conservative controlled Local Government Association (LGA) said in a letter to the Observer that they have already imposed cuts of 40% since 2010 and can not afford more cuts.

They state that any further cuts will have more serious ramifications for community life and social care and will have a knock-on effect on other services such as the NHS,

“Councils have worked hard to shield residents from the impact of funding cuts. However, efficiencies cannot be remade or buildings resold,” they say.

“Further local government funding reductions over the next five years are not an option. The new government must consider the consequences that further funding cuts, without radical…

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Disability campaigner to deliver birthday card to Iain Duncan Smith

Disability campaigner Mary Laver is to deliver a special birthday card to Iain Duncan Smith – to thank him for plans to “imprison” her in her own home.

She is protesting against his party’s plans to scrap the Independent Living Fund (ILF) on June 30.

Mary, 67, of Forest Hall, Newcastle, said: “I’m very frightened about what this will mean to me and anything I can do to at least raise the issue of this appalling cut, the better.”

The former RAF servicewoman has rheumatoid arthritis so severe that she cannot walk or use her hands.

As such she requires constant care – receiving around 18 hours a day or 126 a week at present. The majority is funded by her local authority but 46 hours a week comes as a result of the ILF.

Ironically it was set up by the Conservatives in 1988 for disabled people with high support needs to enable them to live in the community rather than move into residential care.

It costs about £320m a year and helps nearly 18,000 disabled people across the country.

However, according to the plan, in June the funding and responsibility of ILF care and support needs will transfer to local authorities – but there is no obligation to use the money specifically for ILF.

And after one year, the funding from the Government will cease, meaning local authorities need to find it from their own ever decreasing budgets.

Mary is travelling to London with her support team for her protest on Thursday, the Department for Work and Pension Minister’s 61st birthday.

She will set off in her powered wheelchair and travel from the House of Commons, via the Royal Courts of Justice, 14 miles to Duncan Smith’s Chingford constituency in London to deliver a card she has had specially designed for the occasion.

She said: “I do not want to trust anyone else with such an important gift.”

Speaking of the effect the closure of the ILF will have on her, Mary said: “He is going to imprison me in my own home for the rest of my life without a parole or right to appeal. My crime? The crime that I have committed is becoming a disabled person.

“Not only am I disabled, but I am severely disabled with a mandatory life sentence.”

In 2009, Mary travelled from Land’s End to John O’Groats in her electric wheelchair to raise money for The Royal British Legion and made it into the ­Guinness Book of ­World Records.

She has taken part in the Great North Run and in 2012 she carried the Olympic torch through Newcastle.

Mary said: “This will probably be my last long journey.”

She added: “There are 18,000, give or take a few, ILF users who are going to lose on the 30th June, the funding to live an independent life, a life that non-disabled people accept as normal.

“The ILF stands for, Independent Living Fund, that is what the it gives us, our independence to enable us to live our life as we see fit.

“My message to all political parties is that it is not too late to save the ILF. Be true to yourself and stop the cruellest cut of all, cutting the Independent Living Fund, the ILF.”

A conservative spokesman said: “Our understanding of disabled people has changed over the past 20 years, and along with it there have been significant developments in how we provide social care to disabled people so they can live independent lives.

“Spending on disability benefits has increased under this Government – we continue to spend £50 billion a year on disabled people and the services provided to them. As part of our long-term economic plan we want to make sure that disabled people are given the support that allows them to fulfil their potential.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 05 Apr 2015

New report reveals human cost of Government cuts in North East

A report published today reveals the “human cost” of Government cuts in the North East.

Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that the most deprived areas of England have seen the largest cuts in funding since 2010.

‘The Cost Of The Cuts’ report finds that local authorities have been able to protect front line services by finding new, innovative ways of working, but that capacity for further efficiency savings is fast running out.

Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, who last week oversaw £40million budget cutbacks and a council tax increase which will see the city’s Band B residents paying £20 more a year, said:

“This research highlights the human cost of the cuts to service users and staff and reinforces the case Newcastle has made for a fairer and more equitable settlement.

“We have long argued that disproportionate Government cuts have had a bigger impact on the poorest and most vulnerable people in our community. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation have now added their independent voice to the many who now confirm that, sadly this has indeed been the case.

“Whilst we recognise the need for reductions in public spending, the cuts have been implemented far too quickly and at a pace and scale which has led to service reductions which could otherwise have been avoided. This approach is causing real harm to our communities.

“In Newcastle we have responded by doing all we can to safeguard services to the most vulnerable, and to continue to invest in our city to create the jobs and economic growth which are fundamentally important to tackling the inequalities in health, wealth and quality of life which blight our communities.

“More innovative approaches are possible based on greater devolution of public service budgets to places, and multi-year financial settlements which give local councils and their partners greater certainty about their finances. This would allow us to plan ahead together for a more transformative approach to sustaining public services in the face of continuing austerity.”

Analysis of local government expenditure data reveals that the poorest English authorities have seen reductions of £182 more per head than the most affluent, breaking the historic link between the amount a local authority spends per head and local deprivation levels.

In 2010/11, the most deprived councils had an extra 45% of expenditure per head to cope with additional needs. By 2014/15, this had been reduced to 17%.

Services such as housing and planning have been worst affected across the country, seeing cuts of around 40%.

The report highlights an important difference between the situation in England and in Scotland. It claims the slower pace of cuts in Scotland may have given local authorities more room to invest in preventative measures, which could drive down costs in the medium term by reducing the need for services in future years.

Professor Annette Hastings from the University of Glasgow said:

“Local councils find themselves in an incredibly difficult position. At a time when the agenda is about how to make public services work better, particularly for those that need them the most, councils are being subjected to year on year funding cuts.

“Their capacity to deliver positive change is being reduced just when it is needed the most.”

Josh Stott, policy and research manager at the Foundation said:

“The cuts have forced the pace of local service reform and there have been some positives, in terms of service redesign and new ways of working.

“However, we are now beginning to see the impacts of the cuts filter through on to the quality of local services. There is a general consensus that we are only half way through the cuts and, if we continue on this course, it seems inevitable that the poorest people and places will be even harder hit.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 11 Mar 2015

Government ‘blunder’ risks thousands of teenagers losing the right to vote, MP warns

Thousands of the region’s teenagers risk losing their right to vote in the general election after a Government blunder, MPs are warning.

Local authorities are failing to register “attainers” – 17-year-olds who could be adults by May 7 – after errors in letters drafted by the Cabinet Office, they say

Now figures  reveal an extraordinary 80 per cent fall in attainers on the books of just one council, County Durham.

If the slump – of just over 3,000, in just one year – is replicated across the region, it would mean that close to 20,000 first-time voters could lost their vote.

The controversy was raised in a recent Commons debate by Kevan Jones, the North Durham MP, who described the situation as a “scandal”.

In North Durham constituency, there were 647 attainers on the register in February last year, but that number has plummeted to just 126 one year later – after the mistake.

The pattern is repeated in Bishop Auckland (a fall from 662 attainers to 118), Durham City (from 625 to 177), Easington (from 641 to 95),  North West Durham (from 689 to 156) and in Sedgefield (from 513 to 97).

Mr Jones said:

“We could put the fall down to a drop in the birth rate in 1997 – clearly there was a lack of passion in North Durham – but that is obviously not the case.

 The Labour MP urged ministers to provide funding to local councils and require them to use other data they hold on 17-year-olds to get them registered in time.

And he said:

“That must be done, otherwise many 17-year-olds who will turn 18 before May 7 will assume that they will get a vote, but will not get it.”

Under the old system, where the head of the household registered all voters, a section of the form asked for the names of any 17-year-olds to be added.

But the sentence is missing from letters sent out under the new system – of individual electoral registration (IER) – which is being introduced to combat fraud.

In reply, the deputy Commons leader Tom Brake, promised to write to Mr Jones, but stopped short of agreeing to instruct – and fund – town halls, to correct the problem.

 A spokesman for the Electoral Commission said it was “encouraging all local authorities” to write to every property in their area to tell 16 and 17-year-olds to go online to register.

Meanwhile, Bishop Auckland MP Helen Goodman criticised a separate barrier in the way of young people attempting to register – the requirement to provide a national insurance number.

She told ministers:

“A letter with a young person’s national insurance number arrives before they are 16 and we are suggesting that two years later teenagers will know where that letter is and have kept it in a safe place. I cannot think of anything more naïve.”

Source –  Northern Echo,  16 Feb 2015

Government blames North East councils for cuts of £240 million

Ministers have accused North East councils of sitting on unused land and property which they could sell to protect services.

But local authorities facing massive spending cuts of more than £240 million ridiculed the claims – and pointed out that there are strict rules preventing them from selling the land to fund services.

And the comments provoked an angry reaction from Labour, who accused the Government of imposing higher cuts on urban councils in the North East than wealthy parts of the country.

Ministers launched the attack on councils which are reducing services and raising council tax, claiming that they had nobody to blame but themselves.

The Association of North East Councils has warned that crucial services such as care for vulnerable children are in danger of collapse as massive cuts in council funding wipe almost quarter of a billion pounds off budgets across the North East this year.

It says the true impact of Government spending cuts has been hidden because authorities have succeeded in “raiding” other services and diverting funds where they are needed most – but they have reached a point where this just won’t be possible any more.

But Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles issued a statement claiming councils have large sources of untapped revenue including money held in reserve, assets such as property or land, and council tax arrears which have gone uncollected.

And his department published a league table highlighting the worst offenders, with County Durham named as one of the authorities with high levels of surplus assets. The authority is sitting on assets worth £62 million, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

The department also named Gateshead as an authority with high levels of surplus assets, worth £49 million.

Government figures also showed that Northumberland council had reserves of £96.4 million while Newcastle-upon-Tyne had reserves of £78.9 million.

Mr Pickles said:

“Reserves have rocketed up in the past few years and councils could be making better use of assets to keep taxes down and protect frontline services, while at the same time doing more to stop the billions they are losing to fraud and collecting more Council Tax arrears.”

But the claims were dismissed by Councillor Alan Napier, Deputy Leader of Durham County Council, who said:

“We do have surplus assets of £62 million which includes both land and buildings, including former school sites.

“Most of these sites are either being sold, up for sale or in the process of being put up for sale. When sold, our hands are tied as to what we can spend the money on as the receipts are ring-fenced and can only be spent on new capital items such as buildings, vehicles or infrastructure.

“I would have expected Mr Pickles to know that receipts from surplus assets cannot be used to reduce council tax or protect front line services ”

Gateshead Council’s strategic director of corporate services and governance, Mike Barker, said

“£41m illion of assets which have been classed as ‘surplus to requirements’ actually relate to land which has already been contractually committed towards building much needed, good quality, affordable housing across the borough.

“The development of this land is already underway on sites at Deckham, Bensham and Saltwell, and Birtley. Over the next 15 years, the joint venture partnership between ourselves, Galliford Try and Home Group will build thousands of new homes on 19 different sites across Gateshead; bringing jobs, investment, and regeneration to many areas.”

The devastating impact of Government cuts on council services was confirmed in a report by the National Audit Office late last year, which warned that authorities were reaching a point where they couldn’t cope.

It said:

“While local authorities have maintained financial resilience overall, some – particularly among metropolitan districts – are now showing persistent signs of financial stress, such as unplanned in-year reductions in service spend.

“Looking to the future, there is increased uncertainty about how local authorities can manage further possible falls in income.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  11 Feb 2015

Welfare Reforms Are Main Cause Of Homelessness In England, Study Finds

Welfare reforms such as the bedroom tax, sanctions and housing benefit cuts are fuelling England’s rapidly worsening homelessness crisis, according to an independent study.

The government’s welfare policies have emerged as the biggest single trigger for homelessness now the economy has recovered, the study says, and they look likely to increase pressure on vulnerable households for at least the next two years.

London has become the centre of homelessness, the study says, as high rents, housing shortages and welfare cuts force poorer people out of the inner city to cheaper neighbourhoods. Those who lose their homes are increasingly rehoused outside the capital.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of the homelessness charity Crisis, said the report revealed the true scale of homelessness in England. “Rising numbers [are] facing the loss of their home at a time when councils are being forced to cut services. This is a desperate state of affairs.”

Official figures show that homelessness is rising – up by 12,000 in 2013-14 continuing an upward trend since 2009-10 – with rough sleeping also on the increase, and soaring numbers of homeless families in temporary accommodation.

But the study argues that these official figures underplay the scale and complexity of homelessness in England because they do not capture the hundreds of thousands of people in housing crisis who are given informal help by authorities.

Although latest government statistics show 52,000 households were formally recorded as homeless in 2013-14, a total of 280,000 families were given some sort of assistance by authorities because they were at risk of losing their home.

Local authorities are increasingly using informal homelessness relief to keep at-risk families off the streets by providing financial support and debt advice or by mediating with landlords, none of which appears in the headline statistics.

“Taking these actions into account, we see that the number of cases of people facing or at serious risk of homelessness rose sharply last year. Yet this alarming trend has gone largely unnoticed by politicians or the media,” said the study’s lead author, Prof Suzanne Fitzpatrick of Heriot-Watt University.

The Homelessness Monitor 2015, an annual independent audit, is published by Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The housing minister, Kris Hopkins, said the study’s claims were misleading. Local authorities had a wide range of government-backed options available to help prevent homelessness and keep people off the streets, he said.

This government has increased spending to prevent homelessness and rough sleeping, making over £500m available to local authorities and the voluntary sector,” he said.

Hopkins added that the government had provided Crisis with nearly £14m in funding to help about 10,000 single homeless people find and sustain a home in the private rented sector.

Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said:

“Homelessness can be catastrophic for those of us who experience it. If we are to prevent a deepening crisis, we must look to secure alternatives to home ownership for those who cannot afford to buy: longer-term, secure accommodation at prices that those on the lowest incomes can afford.”

The study finds:

  • Housing benefit caps and shortages of social housing has led to homeless families increasingly being placed in accommodation outside their local area, particularly in London. Out-of-area placements rose by 26% in 2013-14, and account for one in five of all placements.
  • Welfare reforms such as the bedroom tax contributed to an 18% rise in repossession actions by social landlords in 2013-14, a trend expected to rise as arrears increase and temporary financial support shrinks.
  • Housing benefit cuts played a large part in the third of all cases of homelessness last year caused by landlords ending a private rental tenancy, and made it harder for those who lost their home to be rehoused.

The study says millions of people are “hidden homeless”, including families forced by financial circumstances to live with other families in the same house, and “sofa surfers” who sleep on friends’ floors or sofas because they have nowhere to live.

Official estimates of rough sleeper numbers in England in 2013 were 2,414 – up 37% since 2010. But the study’s estimates based on local data suggest that the true figure could be at least four times that.

Source – The Guardian,  04 Feb 2015

Northumberland County Council members accused of ‘undesirable’ behaviour

County councillors in Northumberland have been accused of “undesirable” behaviour by their peers and of not putting the best interests of residents first.

Some members of Labour-run Northumberland County Council also admit to having “no interest” in the authority and are “distracted by negativity,” a report by officers and members of other local authorities has found.

The report claims the behaviour of some members is “not providing a sufficiently grown up atmosphere” in which to operate and calls on them to behave in a more “statesman-like” fashion.

> Bloody hell ! Anyone who has ever heard what goes on at Westminster will be now wondering just how bad things must be here !

On the back of the findings, the council’s senior officer said it referred to a number of “misleading claims” which damaged the authority’s reputation such as that its planned new headquarters will cost £40m and that a £20,000 car bought for use by its chairman is a Limousine.

An opposition councillor at the authority accused leaders of issuing outrageous and demonstrably untrue statements and intemperate blog posts.

They hit back saying their critic appeared “hell bent” on proving the report’s findings right.

 

 The conduct of members comes under fire in a Local Government Associationpeer challenge’ of the authority, in which it is visited and assessed by the council by senior officers and councillors from other local authorities around the country.

They concluded:

“There are concerns that not all elected members from all political groups appear to put the best interests of Northumberland residents first, either in their interactions with other elected members, or how they engage with the council more broadly.

“Put bluntly, there are some undesirable member behaviours which are detrimental to the council operating effectively, having a negative effect on its external reputation and internal functioning.

“Increasing tensions and increased media opportunities are to a degree somewhat inevitable as politicians become focused on the 2015 general election, but councillors need to remember that they are the external face of Northumberland County Council and campaigns in the media can be detrimental to everyone and the council’s reputation.

“There are also some concerns about how members interact with officers and with each other.”

The report adds:

Political negativity from some elected members is not providing a sufficiently grown up atmosphere conducive to trust and neither is it in the best interests of local residents.

“Some members openly declare that they have no interest in ‘the council’ although they are members of the council…

“The behaviours of some members need to improve, and a disproportionate amount of time seems to be spent in attacking the council, resulting in officers then having to deal with the fall-out, rather than developing or influencing policies for the greater good. “Opportunities to build relationships and build trust need to be explored, so that members and officers can focus on the big issues ahead, rather than being distracted by negativity, which is draining for everyone.”

The peer challenge recommends the authority “work harder to help all elected members to understand their roles in representing the council and being more statesman-like, irrespective of seniority or political persuasion.”

Responding to the findings, council lead executive director Steve Mason said:

“The comments made refer to misleading claims which damage the reputation and standing of the county council.

“For example current claims that the proposed new civic headquarters in Ashington will cost £40million (current estimates around £20million), publicity over a £20,000 car claimed to be a limousine which will save the council money and the level of debate, and on occasion the personal nature of such debate, surrounding the post 16 transport review.

“And while it is only natural there will sometimes be differences of opinion between members, this area of improvement highlighted by the team is already in our proposed action plan and the existing code of conduct and Nolan principles will be an early discussion topic for the next group leaders’ meeting.”

Conservative David Bawn said:

“Sometimes senior members of the administration need to be careful to be seen to act in a statesmanlike manner, this isn’t helped by some of the outrageous and demonstrably untrue statements that have emanated from the leader’s office to the local press on periodic occasions and some of the intemperate posts made on behalf on his blog.”

Leader Grant Davey hit back:

“It seems local Conservatives are hell bent on proving the findings of this independent report led by the leader of Conservative controlled Wiltshire County Council right.

“Their response to a report which highlighted how well the council was progressing and how staff were rising to the challenges of a very challenging cuts agenda was to attack the leader of the council and council staff.

“It’s neither constructive nor is it what residents expect from their elected members and I do hope they sit down and study the report properly and reflect on their ill advised comments especially the comments about ‘damaging political behaviour.’”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 26 Jan 2015

Blyth MP says North East has ‘unfair deal’ after missing out on emergency social care funding

A North East MP has accused Government ministers of ignoring the region’s “first class” healthcare when dishing out emergency cash awards.

This week, Westminster approved a £25m injection into social care for older people in areas where hospitals are facing the biggest problems over delayed patient discharges.

But of the 65 local authorities in England to receive the money, which must be spent by the end of March to ease pressure on wards by moving patients into care in the community, none are in the North East.

Ronnie Campbell, Labour member for Blyth Valley, claims the funding is “almost all southern based where local authorities haven’t been on the receiving end of same level of ConDem cuts as Northern authorities” which have still managed to provide “a first class service”.

And he accused the Government of bailing out councils who are failing to organise their discharges from hospitals properly, while not rewarding Northumberland, North and South Tyneside, Sunderland, Durham and Newcastle councils who are facing up to the challenges.

He explained:

“I’m very worried that local authorities like Northumberland are having their budgets hacked to bits and yet they’re coping with the transfer from NHS care to local authority care.

“They’re under enormous pressure to deliver other services to the general public yet Eric Pickles and Jeremy Hunt are rewarding councils which happen to have marginal constituencies in them. 

“This doesn’t seem to be the ‘fair deal for Northumberland’ local Tories are trumpeting – in fact, this ranks up there with the 20% cut to transport funding and £3m further cuts to the council budget as an example of how the ConDems are targeting the North for purely party political reasons.”

The Department of Health emergency fund was authorised by a special ministerial committee, which has met weekly to help the NHS cope with winter pressures.

According to NHS England, one in five hospital beds was occupied over the Christmas period by someone ready for discharge but unable to move on because of blockages in the system. About a third of these blockages were attributed to lack of social care services.

The average cash boost for each of the 65 councils is £380,000, with money to be spent on extra support for people in their homes and short-term places in residential homes.

Responding to Mr Campbell, Coun Peter Jackson, Tory leader on Northumberland County Council, said:

“The truth is that this Government has fully protected NHS funding from day one.

“Rather than acknowledge this or the indication that our local health care services are performing much better than others across the country, Labour are once again resorting to scaremongering tactics and displaying financial illiteracy.

“Mr Campbell appears to be deliberately misleading the public by confusing local government and health care funding.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Department of Health added:

“We planned for winter earlier than ever this year. We constantly review what additional measures we can take to ease the pressure on services.

“In preparation for the Better Care Fund, the NHS and local authorities are already preparing joint plans to work together better, keep people well and avoid hospital admissions. This money helps speed up that work for this winter.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 23 Jan 2015

Spending on buses goes up in urban areas but down in rural parts of North East

Spending on buses is going up in urban areas while it dips in rural parts of the North East, figures reveal.

Data released by the Campaign for Better Transport showed spending on subsidised bus services has risen by 14.3% since 2010 in Tyne and Wear.

Meanwhile, in County Durham and Northumberland councils are spending 29.8% and 15.3% less, respectively.

Martin Abrams, from CBT, said elderly and disabled people are those that suffer.

He said:

“Every single local authority is in a difficult financial position.

“This report isn’t about beating up local authorities – we want to highlight the fact that councils are really, really suffering from the funding cuts imposed on them by central government – but some councils are finding ways of funding services.

“We are concerned for elderly people in rural areas as this will have an impact on them, especially.

“A lot of elderly people take the bus to the shops and they meet their mates. If you take that away then people will be left in isolation and it will have an impact on the social fabric of the country.

“It is the big rural counties rather than urban areas that are making big cuts and it is very worrying.”

 

 Councillor Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council and transport lead on the North East Combined Authority, said Nexus, which manages transport in the Tyne and Wear area, is dipping into reserves to avoid the funding cuts seen in other areas.

The combined authority has voted to operate a Quality Contract Scheme (CQS) which would see councils take control of fares and services.

He said:

“About 10% of local bus services in Tyne and Wear are paid for by local authorities through Nexus, and that includes all our school buses and special routes for early-morning shiftworkers, as well as many journeys in the evening and at weekends.

“Tyne and Wear has been able to avoid the severe cuts to local bus routes seen in many parts of the country thanks to good planning by local councils and Nexus up to now, but the fact is Nexus is spending the last of its financial reserves to keep these vital services on the road.

“This cannot go on much longer and that is why the North East Combined Authority is pushing ahead with a planned Quality Contracts Scheme, in which some of the large profits made by bus companies in the region are re-invested to protect and improve all local services.

“This will not only protect routes but mean lower fares for passengers, a universal smart ticket like Oyster in London and savings for the local taxpayer.

“Without a Quality Contracts Scheme local people should be under no illusion that local buses face cuts due to the enormous pressure on council spending.”

Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council, said cutting the bus budget in County Durham had been unavoidable in the backdrop of severe cuts to local authorities.

He said following a consultation in 2011 funding for evening and weekend services had been scaled back to protect those operated during the day.

He added further cuts would make it harder to protect services.

Councils in other parts of the region, such as Darlington and Stockon, have cut funding for subsidised bus routes altogether.

He said:

“There has not been much of a reduction over the last few years, however, as with everything else, given the cuts that are being made by George Osborne that will become more and more difficult.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 13 Jan 2015

Unemployment: Local Government Association praises the work of North East councils

Councils are doing more to help unemployed people than the Government as data shows people are falling through the cracks.

The Local Government Association has made the claim as the North East shoulders the country’s highest unemployment rate (9.1%) and as its research shows there has been an alarming 28% increase in the number of unemployed not claiming benefits in the last 18 months.

> Is that because they’ve been sanctioned ? 

It means that while Government data does not reveal the full extent of the problem, the LGA says local authorities are being left to pick up the pieces.

The LGA has praised North East councils for working with employers, charities and voluntary groups, schools, colleges and housing associations, and says schemes are offering one-to-one mentoring, training, work placements and apprenticeships at a crucial time.

LGA chairman David Sparks said the capacity for councils to play this role, however, is under threat as all parties eye further cuts.

He said:

“Unemployment is falling, but the headlines hide the plight of our most vulnerable residents who are falling through the cracks. Too many are let down by national job schemes which are unable to identify or help them because they have not signed on at their local Jobcentre Plus.

“Councils across the country are desperate to ensure no-one is left behind and have sought to support those being forgotten by these national services by using their local knowledge, expertise and connections with local organisations and services to target their hardest to reach residents.”

Council leaders say national schemes aim to simply shift people from the benefits queue and that approach is damaging for some of the most vulnerable, such as young or disabled people.

Leader of Newcastle City Council, Councillor Nick Forbes, said the news was more evidence that the Government must devolve more powers to the North East.

He said:

“The Government are more interested in getting people off benefits than getting them into work. The reality is the jobs that are being created are in most cases, part-time, low wage and zero contract hours.

“Local authorities are having much more success in helping people into jobs and training than Government because they have a better understanding of what is happening in their area.”

Councillor Iain Malcolm, leader of South Tyneside Council said:

“The national approach is to move people off the benefits register as quickly as possible, but sometimes this can be to the detriment of more vulnerable residents and can exacerbate their situation if they take the first job that comes along and they are not ready to work.

“Our approach has been to offer residents constructive and comprehensive advice and support to help them back into work at the right time for them and the employer. In partnership with employers, we have designed initiatives to support jobs and apprenticeship creation this has created over 400 new jobs apprenticeships over the past three years.

“Although there have been national schemes offering wage subsidies, feedback from our employers showed that the schemes were too difficult to access due to a vast amount of eligibility criteria.

“We have taken the time to understand the barriers that our residents face when looking to go back into employment and then commissioned community learning programmes that will address those issues, such as literacy and numeracy programmes and support to help residents gain IT and money management skills.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 14 Jan 2015