Cameron’s PMQs boasts unravel again

by Atul Hatwal

In what is becoming a regular fixture at prime minister’s questions, another one of David Cameron’s answers has unravelled as the facts have come to light.

Scrabbling around for a response to Ed Miliband’s attack on the catastrophic 8% rise in unemployment over the past year to 2.7 million, the prime minister wheeled out his government’s commitment to training, highlighting the small 1% fall in long term unemployment in the last quarter from 867,000 to 857,000.  He stated,

“Any increase in unemployment is disappointing… That is why we are taking so much action to try and help people to get back into work… It is…noteworthy that there is a small decrease in long-term unemployment. I hope that shows that schemes such as the work programme that the government are introducing are beginning to have an effect”.

But Uncut can reveal that despite the prime minister’s boasts of action to boost training, his administration has actually cut the number of places available by 26%, from 141,000 to 96,000 over the past year.

The figures were buried in a supplementary table hidden in the welter of labour force survey statistics released on Wednesday.

Following the logic of David Cameron’s argument, as a direct result of his training cuts in the past year, 35,000 people have been deprived of a route back to work and remain condemned to long term unemployment.

That’s nearly four times the size of the meagre fall in long term unemployment Cameron cited.

The number of long term unemployed chasing a place on a training scheme is now at an all-time high, with one space available for every ten people who have been out of work for over a year.

In comparison, the last time long term unemployment was at a similar level in late 1996, when it was 862,000, one training place was available for every four people who were long-term unemployed.

At the end of 1996, in the final months of John Major’s government, 218,000 people were in training schemes, well over double the number under David Cameron.

Given this collapse in training provision, perhaps the most worrying figures released this week were the numbers of people who had been unemployed for between six and 12 months.

This group is important because it gives a good indication of the future direction of travel for long term unemployment.

The latest figures show a 15% rise in the past year, from 450,000 to 515,000.

Without significant extra training places being made available to help these people back into work, there is a danger of a step-change rise in long term unemployment in the coming months.

The manner in which this tidal wave of unemployment is overwhelming the government’s decimated training defences is already evident in the rising numbers who have been out of work for two years or more.

This group has experienced the biggest rise of any in the past year, rocketing by 27% from 335,000 to 424,000.

There is now a real prospect that half a million people will have been out of work for a period of years at some point in 2012.

At a time when redundancies are soaring, going up by 25% over the year for women, and vacancies continue to fall by 18,000 since 2010, high quality training has rarely been so needed.

Few will disagree about the need for job seekers to try hard in finding work, but with so many chasing so few vacancies, which company will employ someone who has been out of work for years on end?

The next time David Cameron decides to blunder about at PMQs boasting about training, Ed Miliband needs to be prepared.

The prime minister should experience the blunt impact of the facts on this issue.

Only then, after feeling the bruises of political humiliation at the despatch box, might he think to ask his secretary of state for work and pensions why on earth is training being cut when unemployment is spiralling of control?

Atul Hatwal is associate editor at Uncut.

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