Job Centres in the region are among the first in the country to take part in the national roll out of the Government’s new Universal Credit, which began today (Monday, February 16).
Universal Credit, designed to get people into work more quickly and making it easier for them to earn more, has started in 15 areas, including Hambleton, Ryedale, Hartlepool and York.
Initially the credit, which merges six working-age benefits into one, is being rolled out only for new claims from single people who would otherwise have been eligible for jobseekers allowance, including those with existing housing benefit and working tax credit claims.
At Northallerton Job Centre today there was confusion over how it will work. One single parent, who gave her name as Julie, said she had been told nothing about it.
“It could possibly be a good idea, rather than having separate benefits and dealing with different departments,” she said.
“But I have been told nothing about this, and how it will work. I want to get back to work and I am studying at the moment so if it helps me to get back to work that’s good. But information would be a big help too.”
Another 19-year-old man who is currently claiming jobseekers allowance said he was also in the dark.
A pilot scheme has been tried out in the North-West, which the Government said had been a success
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said:
“The evidence shows that under Universal Credit, people move into work more quickly and earn more money, giving them increased financial security.
“It is very impressive that we have seen these results so soon and that this is having a real impact on people’s lives. This is a cultural change which will alter the landscape of work for a generation.”
But Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves said no one believed the promises that the new system would work.
“Labour wants universal credit to work and we’ll call in the National Audit Office to do an immediate review of this failing programme to get a grip of the spiralling waste and delays.”
Source – Northern Echo, 16 Feb 2015
A widening pay gap between the region and the rest of the country has emerged, alongside a pay fall for the nation as a whole this year.
According to the Northern think tank, IPPR North, real wages have fallen in the past few years in the North-East and North Yorkshire, where workers are generally earning less than the national average.
Between 2009 and 2013 real annual wages have fallen three per cent in the North-East (£740) and five per cent in Yorkshire and the Humber (£1,249.)
Over the same period, the cost of living has risen sharply across the nation.
Social research charity, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) say the cost of goods and services has gone up 28 per cent since 2008.
Luke Raikes, a researcher with IPPR North said:
“Low pay is a severe and growing problem for both the North East and for Yorkshire and the Humber, as it is for the country as a whole.”
“Workers in the area earn less per hour: nationally the average wage is £13.13, but in North East it’s £12.14, and in Yorkshire and the Humber it’s £12.”
The news has come during Living Wage week, where it was revealed one in every four workers is earning less than the living wage in the region, which now stands at £7.85 an hour.
In the North-East, the average hourly pay in Middlesbrough was the lowest, at £11.05 per hour and the highest was in Stockton-on-Tees, where it worked out at £13.29 per hour.
It comes as a report show a national pay fall. Wages have been “dragged down” this year because of changing trends in the workforce, including younger and less experienced employees, according to a new study.
The Resolution Foundation think tank said a downward shift in the mix of occupations towards lower-paying jobs has prevented 2014 from being the year of the pay rise.
But some of this was due to increase employment; changes which led to reduced earnings growth include fewer managerial jobs, rising youth employment and increasing numbers of people starting a job.
> Or, as a comment to the original article pointed out :
It also appears to be due to a cultural change in companies pushing their luck with employees. They know there are less skilled jobs available allowing them to cut wages, implement pay freezes and cut benefits such as pensions. This is definitely the case with my employer. I cant see this changing in a hurry. My employers regularly state if you don’t like it, you know where the door is! Inflation continues, my wage increase doesn’t.
Source – Northern Echo, 08 Nov 2014
Housebuilding has collapsed in most of the region – despite Government claims of a “success story”.
The number of ‘affordable homes’ being built has fallen in 13 of 17 areas since the Coalition came to power, after housing programmes were axed.
And it has plunged sharply in many areas, including in Hartlepool (down 62.5 per cent), Middlesbrough (down 59.1 per cent) and Stockton-on-Tees (down 54.5 per cent).
The lack of new homes is even more acute in North Yorkshire, in Hambleton (down 76.9 per cent), Ryedale (down 66.7 per cent) and York (down 85.2 per cent).
In Richmondshire, not a single affordable home – those available at lower rents, or for shared ownership – was completed in 2013-14.
Yet, in 2010-11, the year the Coalition came to power, 60 were built, the official figures show.
Only South Tyneside, where 1,050 affordable homes were completed last year, bucked the trend, cutting the decline across the region to 15.3 per cent.
Last week, the department for communities and local government (DCLG) claimed its record on affordable housing since 2010 was a “clear success story”.
But ministers totted up four years’ of figures to reach that tally – and the statistics for previous years reveal a different story.
Rachel Fisher, head of policy at the National Housing Federation, said: “It is nowhere near enough.
“Demand is still far exceeding supply. England needs around 240,000 new homes a year. We need to build more of the right homes, in the right place, at the right price.”
Emma Reynolds, for Labour, said: “We have repeatedly called for action on housing supply, particularly on the need for more affordable homes, but this government has failed to act.
“Under David Cameron, the number of homes built has fallen to the lowest level in peacetime since the 1920s.”
The chronic shortage of housing is an issue rising up the political agenda, with hundreds of thousands of families languishing on council waiting lists.
Meanwhile, town halls remain barred from borrowing money to build homes, as the Government relies on the private sector to step in.
But Kris Hopkins, the housing minister said: “Our affordable house-building efforts are a clear success story, with nearly 200,000 new affordable homes delivered since April 2010.
“It means families have new homes available to them, whether to rent at an affordable rate or to buy through our shared ownership schemes.”
Across England, 41,654 affordable homes were built last year – well down on the 53,172 in the year before the last general election.
Source – Northern Echo, 20 June 2014