BYRNE LEADS CALLS FOR NEW ‘RIGHT TO WORK’ IN WEST MIDLANDS | Liam Byrne MP for Metro Mayor

Liam Byrne, Labour’s Shadow Mayor of the West Midlands, along with the Labour and Council Leaders of each of the 7 local authorities making up with the West Midlands Combined Authority, have written to the Prime Minister outlining their plan for a new ‘Right to Work and Right to Train’ to deal with the regions rising unemployment. 

Today’s figures show that the number of people out of work and claiming work related benefits jumped to 2.8 million with 612,000 fewer people on UK payrolls. Latest unemployment figures in the West Midlands stands at 166,000. 

For weeks, Liam Byrne has been highlighting the Bank of England forecasts which warns that unemployment across the West Midlands could more than double to over 320,000 - a figure last seen in the late 1980’s.

 Liam said: “The Labour Party has rightly called for a ‘Back to Work’ budget and the proposals I am making today with Councillors and Council Leaders from across the region is how you could turn that policy into reality. The schemes we propose would be funded by a new Just Jobs Fund, delivered by the region, and created by pooling five existing different funding pots with billions of pounds already committed but scattered between different government departments. This isn’t asking for lots of new money, it’s asking for our fair share of what has already been committed by Government.” 

Today Liam Byrne, with the backing of the Labour Group Leaders on the 7 members of the WMCA, reiterates his proposal:

  • A £3.5 billion capital investment fund which could create almost 100,000 jobs building over 10,000 new homes, retrofitting over 100,000 cold houses and delivering solar energy to over 200,000 homes
  • A Right to Work, with continued furlough support for ‘social distance sectors’ like hospitality, tourism, leisure, and culture and ‘Green Sectors’ which help accelerate a zero carbon city-region - in return for an employer commitment to keep workers on, and up-skill them.
  • A Right to Train and Retrain, including a funded guaranteed apprenticeship for any young person with the right grades plus the right to retraining for part-time workers and the long term unemployed
  • New Careers Centres to bring together the DWP, the Dept for Education, councils, colleges and the NHS to create one stop shops to undertake proper assessments of and individuals jobs and skills options
  • The programmes would be delivered by pooling five funds - the ‘shared prosperity fund’, the National Retraining Scheme, the National Skills Fund, unspent Apprenticeship Budget, and the Adult Education Budget - from across government and handing the West Midlands share to the region to deliver

 

The scheme would be delivered by a new Regional ‘Just Jobs Board’, which would include councils, employers, trade unions, job centre staff, FE colleges, universities. Today, the Tory Mayor’s ‘Economic Impact Group’ include banks - but not job centres.    

Liam Byrne said: 

“We now that in the West Midlands, half a million people have been furloughed, are unemployed or have received self-employed support and today’s figures are a stark reminder of how fragile our regional economy really is.” 

"What we now need to do is to end the chaos, put these funds together, and hand over our fair share here in the West Midlands to us, so we can do what we know is needed to protect lives and protect livelihoods.  

‘We have to stand up to London and insist the funds come to our region in a new Just Jobs Fund so we can put the money to work.” 

 

Highlighting the exclusion of the Department of Work and Pensions from the current Tory Mayor’s ‘Economic Impact Group, Liam said: 

"We need to bring together the best brains in the region to drive this through. The TUC has called for regional recovery boards to help drive this through. I think the TUC is right.  Our Tory Mayor has a committee - but he’s forgotten to ask the Department for Work and Pensions to join. That's a schoolboy error. I ask you: how are we going to get people back into jobs if the job centres aren't on your team?"

*** End ***

 

Notes to Editors

ONS Data on unemployment figures from 16th June 2020 https://www.ons.gov.uk/file?uri=%2femploymentandlabourmarket%2fpeoplenotinwork%2funemployment%2fdatasets%2fclaimantcountbyunitaryandlocalauthorityexperimental%2fcurrent/lmregtabcc01june2020.xls

 

The right to work would be delivered through two new programmes:

 

SaveGoodJobs Fund

  • ‘Social distance sectors’: where holding up the social distancing means holding back the business; e.g. hospitality, tourism, leisure, and culture.
  • Maintain furlough support at 60% with no employer contribution.
  • Employers would have to offer a training or upskilling entitlement linked to the job requirement on return to full-time work.

 

GreenNewJobs Fund

  • Strategic sectors: help accelerate a zero carbon city-region.
  • Extend the planned furlough subsidy of 60% for 6 months to any employer (private or public sector) creating a new job, in the green economy.
  • Employer’s fund 40%
  • Employers would have to offer a contract of employment with no zero hours arrangements permitted; offer a minimum of 12-month guaranteed employment; and commit to a training/upskilling entitlement for the employee on an approved training programme with a minimum 20% off-the job-training weekly

 

Right to train - and retrain.

  • An apprenticeship guarantee.
  • A guaranteed apprenticeship for everyone aged 18 to 25, as long as they have the required qualifications
  • Include a 6-month wage subsidy paid to employers for all new apprentices in the age group taking an accredited/approved apprenticeship programme with a minimum of 12-month guarantee of employment

 

Right to Retrain for Part Time Workers

  • Waiving the employer contribution to the current furlough scheme for the upskilling of part-time eligible employees - as long as the employee joined an accredited/approved retraining programme in the non-working periods.

 

Right to Retrain for the Unemployed

  • Funding participation in an approved retraining programme leading to a recognised standard and for maximum of 30 weeks
  • Relax the Jobcentre Plus/JSA restrictions like the16-hour rule, so unemployed people can upskill for a new future.

 

 

Sectors

Employer puts in

Government puts in

Right to Work

 

 

 

SaveGoodJobs

Vulnerable Sectors where social distancing hurts business model e.g. hospitality/tourism/leisure/culture

Conditional on a training/upskilling entitlement linked to the job requirement on return to full-time work

 

Timescale for the scheme to be the subject of regular sectoral review

Maintain furlough support at 60% with no employer contribution 

FundNewJobs

Strategic sectors (Digital services/Green economy)

Employers would have to offer a contract of employment

- no zero hours arrangements permitted

-   minimum of 12-month guaranteed employment

 

Commit to a training/upskilling entitlement for the employee on an approved training programme

- minimum 20% off-the job-training weekly

Extend the planned furlough subsidy of 60% for 6 months to any employer (private or public sector) creating a new job

 

 

 

 

Right to Train

 

 

 

Apprenticeships Guarantee

Focused on priority sectors

An accredited/approved apprenticeship programme

Minimum of 12-month guarantee of employment

6-month wage subsidy paid to employers for all new apprentices in the age group

Right to Retrain - Part Time Workers

 

Commitment of the employee to participation in an accredited/approved retraining programme in the non-working periods

Commitment of the employer to continuation/completion of the programme after any return to full-time working

Waive the employer contribution to the current furlough scheme for the upskilling of eligible employees

Right to Retrain - Unemployed

 

Participation in an approved retraining programme leading to a recognised standard and for maximum of 30 weeks

Access to retraining to be subject to a prior, in-depth skills/education assessment 

Remove Jobcentre Plus/JSA restrictions (eg 16-hour rule) on participation in volume of retraining unemployed people can undertake which hampers upskilling for individuals and the wider economy

 

 

 

 

A Just Jobs fund would bring together five different funding pots

 

Pot

Size

Shared Prosperity Fund

Designed to replace the £2 billion+ of European Structural Fund that the UK is set to lose when we leave the EU.

Underspend in Apprenticeships funding

Early indicators are that the Apprenticeships Budgets may be underspent by up to half

Adult education budget

Around £100 million + already devolved to the West Midlands

National Retraining Scheme

Around £100 million

National Skills Fund

£3 billion

 

 

 

 


Letter to Prime Minister

 

16th June 2020

Dear Prime Minister,

 

Today’s unemployment statistics provide a stark reminder of the fragility of our economy and the need to ensure that, after this pandemic, everyone has the right to a good, secure well-paid job. 

 

Therefore, we write today to propose radical steps to deliver a right to work and a right to train for hundreds of thousands of workers who may lose their jobs in the months ahead.

 

The speed and scale of the government response to support the economy has been very welcome. Kristalina Georgieva, the Managing Director of the IMF has called on policy makers everywhere to do whatever is necessary to get through the crisis, and we believe that remains the essential instruction, now and in the year ahead.

 

As you know both the OBR and the Bank of England now forecast significant increases in unemployment when the furlough scheme is set to end.

 

In 1944, well before the end of World War II, the coalition government set out bold plans to return the country to full employment. The 1944 White Paper on Employment, presented to the House by Earnest Bevin remains the right aspiration for these times.

 

We believe therefore that we must act now to save the good jobs we have and fund the jobs we need.

 

We believe that entails five measures:

 

The Right to Work

 

 1. SaveGoodJobs Fund

  • ‘Social distance sectors’: where holding up the social distancing means holding back the business; e.g. hospitality, tourism, leisure, and culture.
  • Maintain furlough support at 60% with no employer contribution. 
  • Employers would have to offer a training or upskilling entitlement linked to the job requirement on return to full-time work.

 

2. GoodNewJobs Fund

  • Strategic sectors: help accelerate a zero-carbon city-region.
  • Offer the same level of subsidy of 60% for 6 months to any employer (private or public sector) creating a new job, in the green economy

and key strategic sectors critical to the UK/regional economies

  • Employers would contribute the remaining 40%
  • Employers would have to offer a contract of employment with no zero hours arrangements permitted; offer a minimum of 12-month guaranteed employment; and commit to a training/upskilling entitlement for the employee on an approved training programme with a minimum 20% off-the job-training weekly

 

Right to train - and retrain.

 

3. An apprenticeship guarantee.

  • A guaranteed apprenticeship for everyone aged 18 to 25 subject to meeting the necessary entry requirements
  • Include a 6-month wage subsidy paid to employers for all new apprentices in the age group taking an accredited/approved apprenticeship programme with a minimum of 12-month guarantee of employment

 

4. Right to Retrain for Part Time Workers

  • Waiving the employer contribution to the current furlough scheme for the upskilling of part-time eligible employees - as long as the employee joined an accredited/approved retraining programme in the non-working periods.

 

5. Right to Retrain for the Unemployed

  • Funding participation in an approved retraining programme leading to a recognised standard and for maximum of 30 weeks
  • Relax the Jobcentre Plus/JSA restrictions on availability for work like the16-hour rule, so unemployed people can upskill for a new future. 

 

We believe that local authorities and Metro-mayors are best placed to deliver this programme. As such we ask you to consider combining five funding pots into a new Just Jobs fund and then devolving control of these funds to local areas to administer. As Treasury officials will recall from the Total Place pilots pioneered in 2009-10, local areas are able to deliver complex services which require good levels of joint working, far more efficiently and effectively than national government departments or agencies.

 

We believe the five funds that now need combining and devolving are as follows:

  • The ‘shared prosperity fund’. As a member of the European Union, we used to get structural funding worth about £2.1 billion per year.  To replace it, the Government has pledged to set up a Shared Prosperity Fund to reduce inequalities between communities”.
  • The National Retraining Scheme - backed by £100 million of Government investment and held by the Department for Education and supposed to help deliver the Government’s Industrial Strategy for building a country fit for the future.
  • The National Skills Fund - projected to top £3 billion or £600 million a year and designed to deliver the ‘first step’ towards a ‘right to retraining’.
  • Unspent Apprenticeship Budget: apprenticeship starts have dropped by almost half - so the significant under-spends on this budget need to be crystallised and re-cycled.
  • The Adult Education Budget - which in some areas is already devolved to local areas.

 

We appreciate these are bold steps. But the situation demands nothing less. We would be very grateful therefore for your considered reply, and we stand ready to brief you and your team on the details.

 

 

Yours Sincerely,

 

 

 

Rt Hon ­­Liam Byrne MP

 

 

Cllr Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council

Cllr Ian Brookfield, Leader of Wolverhampton City Council

Cllr Yvonne Davies, Leader of Sandwell Borough Council,

Cllr George Duggins, Leader of Coventry City Council

Cllr Qadar Zada, Labour Group Leader on Walsall Borough Council

Cllr Flo Nash, Labour Group Leader on Solihull Borough Council