Employment & Skills

Chuka calls for urgent action on unemployment

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Chuka Umunna MP has called for urgent action to tackle unemployment and boost economic growth following the publication this week of updated unemployment figures by the Office of National Statistics.

Commenting on the impact complacent Government policy has had on local residents, Mr Umunna said:

“The deteriorating unemployment situation needs to be dealt with urgently. In my constituency alone there are now nearly 500 more people without a job than this time last year.
The Government needs to do far more to get demand back into the economy to boost growth and create jobs in South London. Government politicians in the 1980s used to justify inaction by saying unemployment was a price worth paying – that attitude was unacceptable then and it is unacceptable in 2011.
Labour has a five point plan for the economy to boost jobs and growth including a temporary cut in VAT and a bankers bonus tax to create thousands of youth jobs. My constituents cannot wait any longer for the Government to act particularly given the likely negative impact of the Eurozone crisis – we need immediate action now.”

What the autumn statement means for Londoners

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

For Londoners today’s Autumn Statement means

• Rising travelcard costs and no end in sight for farepayers. Only Ken will cut fares and set a course that ensures a fairer deal for Londoners.

• Tory Mayor Boris Johnson has failed to get a decent settlement for London out of the Autumn Statement. He has been awarded 4 out of 40 projects for the Infrastructure Fund lower than almost every other English region. Of the 4 projects that have been announced, only two are actually funded.

• George Osborne’s remarks about a Silvertown river crossing and a Northern line extension are little more than warm words. There is little or no detail on how the projects would be delivered or funded.

• The Government should take up Labour’s five point plan for growth and jobs – which will give up to 334,000 London firms a tax break to take on more workers, create 11,500 jobs for young Londoners and build 5,000 new homes.

More Tory fare rises

Today’s fares announcement by the Tory Mayor and Tory Chancellor means rising travelcard costs and no end in sight for farepayers:

• This is the fourth consecutive year of inflation-busting fares under the Tory mayor

• Fares in London have risen faster than anywhere else in the country during tough

economic times. Boris Johnson should use the £729 million of surplus money in his TfL budget to keep fares low.

• If Ken is elected Mayor in May 2012, in October 2012 he will cut fares, then freeze them the whole of the following year and ensure that they rise by no more than inflation in the following two years.

London’s economy in worse state

The London economy is in a worse state than it has been for more than 15 years

• 410,000 people are now unemployed in London, almost one in ten of the population. Unemployment in London is now higher than it has been at any other point since 1994. According to the latest estimates from ONS, more than one in four young people in London is unemployed.

• Only 56 affordable homes were built in London in the last 6 months, and the number of housing starts in the last quarter went down by more than 50% on the previous year.

• Between January and September, the number of 18-24 year olds on the dole for more than 6 months has doubled in more than half of London’s boroughs.

• A survey by Travelex yesterday showed that 59% of small and medium sized businesses in London expect to go into a double dip recession.

Infrastructure projects cut

The government is cutting not investing in infrastructure.

• Only 4 out of the 40 infrastructure projects outlined today are in London, less than the 10 in Yorkshire and the Humber, and less than the West Midlands, the North West, the South East and the East of England. This is despite the fact that unemployment is higher in London than anywhere else apart from the North East.

• The Tory-led Government got rid of the London Development Agency as well as agencies to promote tourism and inward investment in London

• And even these 4 are beginning to unravel once the detail emerges:

I. The Northern Line extension is a wish not a commitment. London will get no money from the Government for the Northern Line extension, and no guarantee that it will be allowed to borrow. At the earliest, this project will only begin in mid 2013.(In the Autumn Statement it says “Subject to commitment by April 2013 from a developer to develop the site and make agreed contributions, the Government will consider allowing the Mayor of London and partner authorities to borrow against the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) to support this scheme.”)

II. If London receives the same as the other super-connected cities – it will get only £2 million of funding next year – 26p for every citizen

III. There are no commitments on where or when new river crossings will be built or how they will be funded. (In the Autumn Statement it says “the Government will work with the Mayor of London and Transport for London to explore options for proposed additional river crossings, for example at Silvertown.”

Child tax credits cut

As a result of George Osborne’s cuts to tax credits:

• 561,900 families in London will lose out as a result of the changes to the child element of the child tax credit

• 323,600 families in London will lose out as a result of the freeze on the couple and lone parent element of the working tax credit.

In 2008 Boris Johnson axed the childcare affordability programme which had delivered affordable childcare for thousands of London children.

Pay freezes

As a result of George Osborne’s further reductions in public sector pay

• 719,000 public sector workers will experience just 1% pay increases in the two years after a pay freeze ending in 2013. This will impoverish well over a million households in London, who will experience falling real pay every year for the lifetime of the Tory-led government

Labour’s 5 point plan in London would:

1. Create up to 11,500 jobs for young people and build 5,000 homes

2. Bring forward investment projects like new school buildings

3. Temporarily reverse the Tory-led Government’s VAT rise – a £450 boost for families with children

4. Cut VAT on home improvements to 5% for a year

5. Give up to 334,000 small firms a tax break to take on extra workers

Local MP expresses outrage as unemployment soars

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Shock statistics released today show just how much employment prospects in the Streatham constituency have deteriorated in the last year. Streatham MP Chuka Umunna has blamed the complacent attitude of the Conservative-led Government for failing to boost jobs and growth in the local area.

Figures released today show there are 4,310 JSA (Job Seekers Allowance) Claimants in the Streatham constituency but at the last count there were just 219 vacancies advertised at Job Centre Plus when the survey was taken in October 2011. 22% of JSA claimants, more than 1 in 5, have been out of work and claiming benefits for over a year. Over 10,000 people in the Streatham constituency are claiming one of the key out-of-work benefits.

Particularly badly hit have been women and the young. Over the last year the percentage of adult women claiming JSA locally has risen from 3.8% to 4.7%. At the same time the rate of male JSA claimants locally has risen less slowly, from 6.3% to 6.8%. Nationally, there are now over one million young people unemployed. The office of national statistics said the figure was the highest since records began. 

Chuka Umunna MP has called on the Conservative-led Government to take strong action to reverse the decline in employment prospects that has occurred since they came to power. He placed the blame firmly on the Conservative-led Government’s failing economic policy and called for them to end their complacent attitude to those struggling to find work. The Conservative Employment Minister said the youth unemployment figure was ‘a bit of a distraction’.

The Labour Party wants the Government to adopt a five-point plan for Jobs and Growth that would include a £2 billion tax on bank bonuses used to create 11,500 jobs in the capital; bringing forward long-term investment projects; reversing the Governments damaging VAT rise; and a one year cut in VAT on home improvements and a one year national insurance tax break for every small firm which takes on extra workers. 

Commenting, Mr Umunna said:

“I was saddened to read the number of people now unemployed. Unemployment is a personal tragedy for those affected and as the MP for Streatham I will not stand idly by on the sidelines while unemployment soars, as the Conservative-led Government has been doing for over a year.”

“The government’s absurd deficit reduction program, which means fewer people in jobs and more claiming benefits, is hitting consumer confidence, hitting business confidence and hitting people in Streatham hard. The figures just released demonstrate just how much of a negative effect this Conservative-led Government has had on our local community.”

“I am calling on the Government to stop its complacent attitude to our economy and towards jobs and business growth in my South London constituency. It is finally time for them to listen to the concerns ordinary people have and change course to prevent unemployment rising further”.

Local MP stands up for High Streets

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Chuka Umunna MP has written to Mary Portas ahead of her report into the health of Britain’s High Streets and is due to meet with her along with other MPs to advance the case for local business.

Mary Portas, who has showcased her years of retail business experience in hit Channel 4 shows such as ‘Mary Queen of Shops’ and ‘Secret Shopper’ was asked by the government to provide an independent report on what can be done to aid Britain’s High Streets following criticism that enough was being done to foster confidence and support growth.

It is a particularly challenging time for local High Streets which are grappling with the Government’s VAT rise and low consumer spending and confidence. As MP for the Streatham constituency Chuka Umunna represents an area that includes the longest section of High Street in Europe, along the A23, including Streatham High Road.

Chuka Umunna, who is the Shadow Business Secretary, has written, along with fellow Labour MP’s Harriet Harman, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and Hilary Benn, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, in order to ensure that concerns about the future of Britain’s High Streets are taken into account.

The MPs are calling for the Government to enact Labour’s four-point to give local retailers the boost they need given the difficult economic situation nationally. They are calling on the Government to introduce a temporary VAT cut from 20% to 17.5%, putting £450 into every family’s pocket; to amend the the Localism Bill to give communities power to develop a strategy for retail growth in their own area; to give Councils the funds to reinvigorate high-streets blighted by empty shops; and to ensure that small business can compete fairly with big business by putting a fair competition test into the planning system.

In their letter the MPs raised their concern that chain betting shops are putting negative pressures on local high streets and exploiting vulnerable people. Gambling machines which can take up to £18,000 an hour are currently in use on London’s High Streets and there are serious concerns that deprived areas and vulnerable people are most at risk from gambling addiction and resultant hardship.

In the next few weeks Chuka Umunna MP will be continuing his regular walkabouts with local businesses and will continue to work hard to transform their concerns into positive action in Parliament.

Commenting, Chuka Umunna MP said:

“I have written to Mary Portas to make the case for High Streets in my constituency and up and down the country. The Conservative-led Government, through actions such as the ill-advised VAT rise, has created a dangerous lack of confidence that is making life incredibly difficult for hard working local retailers.”

“Our Constituency has so many vibrant local Shops and it is essential that we do all we can to support them. I will be fighting the case for local businesses both in Parliament and on the ground in my constituency”


Unemployment up as 25 people chase every local job

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Local unemployment has risen amid a bleak outlook for job seekers, with more than 25 people chasing each vacancy and a large increase in young people without work according to new statistics.

According to analysis of last week’s unemployment statistics by the House of Commons Library, the number of Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) claimants per Jobcentre plus vacancy in the Streatham Parliamentary constituency, which includes parts of Brixton, Clapham and Tulse Hill, is 25.7. This is the 18th worst ratio of jobless to jobs of the 632 constituencies across England, Wales and Scotland.

Locally, the number of JSA claimants rose by 403 between August 2010 and August 2011, a 10.3% increase. Additionally, there are now 895 people living in the constituency who have been claiming JSA for more than a year.

Unemployment among those aged 24 and under and aged 50 and over locally has risen disproportionately over the last year, by 13.7% and 17.1% respectively, according to the analysis.

Nationally, the number of people aged 18 or over claiming Jobseekers Allowance increased by 20,300 between July and August 2011 to 1.58 million people. The wider ILO measure of unemployment, which takes into account those looking for work but not claiming JSA, was 2.51 million in May-July 2011, a rise of 80,000 from the last quarter, the largest increase since summer 2009.

Commenting, Mr Umunna said:

“These latest local unemployment figures make for particularly depressing reading. It is worrying that joblessness is rising so sharply and that so few jobs are being created. We should never underestimate the impact on the lives of those affected by unemployment and their families.

“The government’s austerity programme is hitting families hard, denting businesses’ confidence in the economy and hampering job creation. These figures underline the urgent need to get the economy growing again.”

Lambeth College London Programme

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Last month, Chuka attended the launch of Lambeth College’s London Programme, of which he is a patron, and presented graduation awards to its initial participants.

The innovative programme gives young people the opportunity to develop their skills and demonstrate their employability and is delivered in partnership with businesses.

Further details on the programme are here

Chuka holds Commons debate on employee rights

Monday, March 7th, 2011

On Friday, Chuka held an adjournment debate in the House of Commons on employee rights and the issue of false self-employment.

To read the debate and Chuka’s speech in it, follow this link or watch the debate here.

Extensive research on the issue of fall self-employment has been published by the Fair Work Coalition and UCATT.

Chuka takes part in apprenticeships event

Friday, March 4th, 2011

During Apprenticeship Week, Chuka was invited to speak at an event at Brixton Music Bar to promote and celebrate apprenticeships.

Ixion CG, an organisation which places young people into apprenticeships, held the event to highlight the benefits apprenticeships offer both to the young people they work with, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and to employers.

Commenting, Chuka said:

“I was honoured to speak at the event and especially enjoyed meeting some of the inspiring young people who have had a chance to embark on a new career route as a result of an apprenticeship placement.

“Apprenticeships are a great way for local businesses to support our community’s young people by giving them the practical work experience that can help them achieve their ambitions, so I hope that more businesses are able to follow in the footsteps of Brixton Music Bar and take on apprentices.”

MP takes HMRC to task for miscalculating constituents’ tax

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Chuka Umunna, Member of Parliament for Streatham and a member of the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee, called the Chief Executive of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to account today over her department’s handling of overpayments and underpayments of income tax, and demanded to know why his constituents should have to pay for the mistakes of HMRC.

Last year, HMRC implemented a new National Insurance and PAYE (Pay As You Earn) system. During the switchover to this new system between June 2009 and August 2010 the department was unable to deal with the backlog of millions of un-reconciled cases from previous tax years.

In August 2010, HMRC began the process of reconciling overpayment and underpayment of taxes for the 2008-09 tax year, and it was revealed that millions of taxpayers would be receiving reconciliation notices informing them that they were owed payments or asking them to pay more in tax to make up for their previous tax payments being miscalculated by HMRC. 1.4 million people are estimated to have underpaid and 4.3 million overpaid income tax during the past two years due to errors in their PAYE tax code – resulting from miscalculations by HMRC tax officials.

The Treasury Select Committee called HMRC’s top civil servants to answer questions about the operation of the PAYE system, including Dave Hartnett, Permanent Secretary for Tax, Bernadette Kenny, Director General of Personal Tax, and Lesley Strathie, Permanent Secretary and Chief Executive of HMRC.

Referring to the worry the prospect of paying more tax would cause constituents in the lead up to Christmas, Mr Umunna challenged Ms Strathie asking, “Is your organisation fit for purpose? Can you understand why people think it’s not?”.  Ms Strathie insisted that the standard yearly reconciliation process had been inaccurately portrayed in the media as a mistake, and that this was the reason people had lost confidence in her workforce—but maintained that PAYE works for the majority of taxpayers.

Mr Umunna also asked “How many people have been notified of over or underpayment so far?” Mr Hartnett said HMRC had sent out 45,000 notifications so far (out of around 6 million). He also mentioned that the first 14,000 to receive compensation for overpayment had already cashed their refunds. Mr Umunna then asked Mr Hartnett “when do you expect to complete the notification process?”  to which Mr Hartnett said it is expected to be completed by Christmas this year. Mr Umunna pointed out that many of his constituents would be anxious to hear whether they would be affected by the reconciliation process between now and then and asked “can you speed up the notification process?”  Mr Hartnett explained that it was an automated process and the technology was still being tested, but that a decision would be taken on 21 September 2010 as to how quickly they would be able to notify individuals.

Concerned that some of the 1.4 million people who are being told they owe HMRC money for underpaid tax will have to pay 3 per cent interest on the money if they cannot pay their bill immediately, Mr Umunna said “I find it quite extraordinary that people who don’t know they’ve underpaid are now being charged interest—what can I tell constituents who come to my surgery asking why they should have to pay for the mistakes of HMRC?.”  In response to this question, Ms Strathie announced that a concession would be made on interest payments: people will first be notified about the payments and the interest will only be charged if they ignore the notice for three months and do not return a self assessment form.

Mr Umunna tabled a parliamentary question on 13 September 2010 to find out the exact numbers of people living in the Streatham constituency, in Lambeth and in London who be affected.  An answer is due from HM Treasury on 16 September 2010.

Umunna attacks Liberal-Conservative youth job cuts

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Chuka Umunna, Member of Parliament for Streatham, has challenged ministers from the Liberal Democrat-Conservative government over their announcement of severe cuts to funding for tackling youth unemployment.

In the House of Commons chamber, Mr Umunna asked the Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander MP why the Future Jobs Fund jobs programme is being cut when data on the effectiveness of the scheme is not yet available.

Posing a question to Leader of the House of Commons Sir George Young, he also called for a full debate on the Future Jobs Fund so that its impact can be properly assessed.

This week, Mr Umunna met with local Jobcentre Plus representatives to discuss the impact of the Future Jobs Fund in the Streatham constituency and learned that full data is not yet available.

Last month the Liberal Democrat-Conservative coalition government announced that the Future Jobs Fund would be axed as part of £6 billion of spending cuts.

The Future Jobs Fund, an investment programme launched by the previous Labour government to tackle unemployment among young people, provided funding to create 110,000 new jobs for 18 to 24 year olds unemployed for six months or more.

Any organisation in the private, public or third sector was able to apply for funding for new jobs through the scheme.

This week, as part of £2 billion of additional cuts the Liberal Democrat-Conservative government announced the axing of the ‘young person’s guarantee’ introduced by the last government which meant that young people out of work for six months were guaranteed a place in a job or training.

In the chamber, Mr Umunna said: “When I visited my constituency’s district Jobcentre Plus office on Monday, I was told that it was far too early to judge the effectiveness of the scheme, because no data are yet available.

“May I suggest that we have a debate on the scheme, so that we can work out whether what we are being told about the DWP’s view of the matter is a reflection of what is happening on the ground?”

Mr Umunna added: “In their manifesto the Liberal Democrats promised to begin their term in office with an economic stimulus and job creation package and are reneging on that by axing this very important scheme with their Conservative coalition partners.”

Writing in the New Statesman, leading economist and former member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee Professor David Blanchflower said: “Youngsters without skills or qualifications are especially at risk. The danger is that they lose self-esteem and do not make a successful trans¬ition from school to work, potentially scarring them forever. That is bad for them: it means more unemployment, lower wages, less happiness and worse health later in life.

“It is also bad for the rest of us, not just because of the lost output, but because of the social costs. Crime rates in general and property crime in particular tend to rise in these circumstances. Above all, these are our children and it’s our problem. Unemployment makes everyone unhappy.”