Rowen presses Brown on Falinge issue
Lib Dem Shadow Work and Pension's Minister and Rochdale MP Paul Rowen has pressed under fire Prime Minister Gordon Brown in Parliament over jobs in Rochdale. Mr Rowen revealed figures that showed that Rochdale has lost 4,500 jobs in the last 7 years in mainly manufacturing. Paul was speaking after the Prime Minister revealed his proposals in a new Welfare Reform Bill.
Mr Rowen said in Parliament: "According to the National Audit Office, the chances of an unemployed person getting a job when coming off the jobseeker's allowance programme vary between one in five and one in 40 depending on their age, sex and where they live. What will the new proposals do to help people in my constituency, for example, where we have lost 4,500 jobs in the past five years and unemployment is on the up? What is the Prime Minister going to do to help those people?"
Gordon Brown replied: "Employment is still rising, that is why there are 600,000 to 700,000 vacancies in the economy. Our desire is to help people who are unemployed or moving between jobs to fill the vacancies that are available. The Hon. Gentleman will know that in his constituency there is still a high number of vacancies, as there is across the region. Through the welfare reform Bill, we want to make it an obligation on people to undergo a skills test and then for them to be advised as to whether they need to acquire further skills, because we know that the number of unskilled jobs in the economy is falling but the number of skilled jobs is rising. We want to help his constituents and all other unemployed constituents to get the skills that they need for the future."
Mr Rowen claims that the future Welfare Reform Bill doesn't do much to raise employment chances for local people including the over 50s, the worst affected age group. He said after the debate, "This is a key opportunity for the Government and they are not making enough of it. For 11 years they have governed and over-legislated. I'm afraid announcing after over a decade in power that they will now start to carry out skills assessments and offer skills advice is simply not good enough. The figures that I quoted to the Prime Minister that the chances of someone getting a job when coming off Job Seekers Allowance are between one in five and one in 40 depending on their age, sex and where they live should shame Labour. This is another example of a Labour Government letting down those most vulnerable.
"Unemployment is a particular problem in Rochdale and the Government have failed to help us significantly. We will of course work with any interested Government Ministers in projects to help local people. The recent example in Falinge, ensured that unemployment in our area hit the national headlines. I must acknowledge the excellent work that the Council and partner agencies are doing to deal with this problem. Last year for example, the efforts of all our initiatives across the borough helped 7,452 people to find a job. Our Council are already doing what the Government should have been doing for 11 years and work together with Jobcentre Plus and our local colleges to provide the link between skills and jobs. We acknowledge that much needs to be done and welcome any positive input from the Government. Headline grabbing gimmicks are not the answer though."