A politician who led a review of worklessness has criticised the city council and Birmingham and Solihull Enterprise Partnership for failing to address long-term unemployment among older people.
Liberal Democrat Jerry Evans said almost all attention in the LEP’s new white paper and council development policy was focused on youth unemployment.
The Springfield councillor and former chairman of the council’s regeneration scrutiny committee said most of Birmingham’s long-term unemployed were aged over 25.
He said: “The LEP employment and skills board has a set of priorities and urgent actions almost exclusively concerned with youth unemployment.
“The figures from Jobcentre Plus show that this is falling in Birmingham.
“The Jobcentre figures show that most of our long-term unemployed are in the adult workforce.
“Equally the data show these tend to be those with the lowest attested skills or none at all.”
Coun Evans said long-term unemployment and low skills were the principle problems facing the city’s economy.
“The new administration to date has failed utterly to direct the LEP’s priorities to this most pressing problem,” he claimed.
“The problem is acknowledged in the LEP’s Strategy for Growth White paper, but it is only given a medium priority – again this shows a far too laid-back attitude to our prime economic problem as a city.
“So far Labour is just paying lip service to the problems of the long-term unemployed.
“They need to be our highest priority, and we need to find innovative ways to reskill them for the 21st century workforce. They cannot be ignored if this city is going to have a prosperous economic future.”
Earlier this year Coun Evans committee completed an inquiry into worklessness in which he warned the city would have 143,000 people on the dole by 2020 if swift and drastic action was not taken.
His successor, Labour councillor Ian Cruise, has recently launched an inquiry looking at closing the skills gap. But the Local Enterprise Partnership insisted tackling long-term adult unemployment remained a priority.
Chairman of the Birmingham Employment and Skills Board, Kate Canty, said there were many issues to tackle and pointed out the LEP’s white paper was out for consultation.
She said: “Long term unemployment comprises a disparate group of people who often exhibit a wide variety of problems and issues that have prevented them from finding employment.
“To talk about them as if they were an homogeneous group whose issues are easily addressed defies reality.”
In a direct response to Coun Evans, she added: “I have read the report of the Transport Environment and Regeneration Scrutiny Committee which you chaired.
“While the issue of worklessness was raised, no solutions were presented, save that the recommendations were that the City Council and the LEP should be challenged to provide solutions.
“There are many incentives, projects and work programmes currently conducted in the city, but it is clear you believe that more could be done.”
She challenged the Liberal Democrats to offer solutions to feed into the consultation.
“It is imperative that we break the cycle that has burdened Birmingham for so long,” Ms Canty added.
“Prevention is better than cure. Inspiring our young people through business in schools, experience of work, and development of employability skills, will produce a generation ready for work and keen to create new enterprise and generate long-term benefit for our city.”
Following consultation the Strategy for Growth will be issued in the New Year.