The government needs to do more to make this a recovery for the many

David Cameron and George Osborne are once again in a jubilant mood. Today’s employment figures reveal a sharp decline in unemployment – another vindication, we are told, for the government’s economic policy. Yet here in the West Midlands, the news is somewhat mixed. On one hand, the region has been fortunate to see the biggest fall in unemployment – 32,000 – of anywhere in the country. On the other hand, at 8.1%, the rate of unemployment, particularly in Birmingham, remains far higher than the national average. The government needs to do more to ensure that cities like ours can get people back into work.

One of the reasons Birmingham and the West Midlands has a high unemployment rate is the large number of young people in the region, who are disproportionately affected by the government’s austerity policies. Nowhere near enough has been done for young people here or elsewhere in the country; the Work Programme has been a catastrophic failure, meaning that young people who could have been helped by the previous government’s Future Jobs Fund are in danger of being left on the scrapheap. Nothing short of Labour’s Jobs Guarantee, ensuring paid work for young people, will address this problem and help bring Birmingham back into line with the rest of the country.

The problem does not end with those still unemployed, however. Across the city, as in the rest of Britain, we see an increasing number of working people finding it harder to make ends meet. While George Osborne has said that he would like to see the minimum wage rise to £7 per hour, a move that would be welcome to many households in Birmingham, it still would not go far enough. Any increase in the statutory minimum wage should come with incentives to businesses to offer a living wage. The government has still failed to act on soaring energy prices, and its attempts to cap rail fares have made little difference to commuters, many of whom have seen the price of their daily journeys increase yet again in the new year. We have a government that is not only not taking enough action to reduce unemployment, but it is also neglecting those who work hard and still struggle at the end of the month. Prices are still rising faster than wages, as they have done for so long under this government – this cannot go on. Life would be different under a Labour government.

Labour is leading the way locally and nationally on employment and living standards. Our own City Council pays all of its employees a living wage. A Labour government would incentivise businesses to pay a living wage, and ensure that energy prices and rail fares are capped, so that work pays and people can afford to live properly. Labour would secure a recovery that worked for everybody: young and old; those on low and middle incomes; those in work and those who want to work. People right across Birmingham are better off under Labour.

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