Posts Tagged unemployment

Building for the future

More evidence that despite optimistic Government pronouncements, the long tail of the recession is still affecting us.

Shelter have published figures showing a fall in house-building, mortgage lending is down, and unemployment in London is the worst since Labour came to power in 1997.

Last week I met with the National Federation of Roofing Contractors, based in Finsbury. They do great work cracking down on cowboy traders, and promoting green roofs, in partnership with the inspiring Dusty Gedge. But like many in the construction industry, their members are facing a downturn in orders, with knockon effects on suppliers and retailers across the country.

There’s a stronger case than ever for the kind of green jobs programme that the Liberal Democrats are promoting, including plans to bring quarter of a million empty homes into use. These are jobs that help communities with better housing and transport, while fighting climate change; and as hands-on jobs, they can’t be exported. That’s good news for the roofers too.

The recession may have caused a fall in new building, but Islington remains one of the most densely populated parts of the UK, so getting the right planning policies is vital. As I’ve blogged before, most of us only get involved in the planning process when a particular proposal comes up that affects us; but by then the planning policies have already been written. Islington’s planning policy framework, the core strategy, is under review.

Now the Council has produced a useful summary of the latest changes proposed following input from various groups in the borough, plus outside agencies like English Heritage. They range from stronger support for independent shops to providing sites for travellers and gypsies.

The core strategy is out for consultation now. Have your say by writing to Freepost, RSEA-CUHA-YYAS, Planning Policy, Islington Council, Upper Street, London, N1 1XR, or via email. Any comments must be received by 5pm on Monday 22 March and will then go on to the Planning Inspector who has the final say on the Islington plans.

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Jobseekers missing out

This message has arrived from my Lib Dem colleague Mike Tuffrey, who leads the Lib Dem trio at the GLA:

I have been fighting for two years to get people on jobseekers’ allowance half-price bus and tram travel. So I was delighted when the Mayor of London finally took up my plan.
But I’ve discovered that take-up of the discount since it started in April has been disappointingly low. Just 215 people have applied for this entitlement in Islington. That means more than 1,300 people are losing out.
Lib Dems want the Mayor to do far more to publicise this new scheme. I encourage everyone on the allowance for more than 13 weeks to claim. Go to tfl.gov.uk/discountcard or call the helpline on 0845 330 9876.

This is a great idea. London may be one of the best-connected cities in the world, but that’s no good if you can’t afford to get to your job interview or training course in the first place. So if you are entitled, claim your discount card now!

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Channel 4 tonight

The Political Slot at 7.55pm: “Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg visits Islington to examine green solutions for unemployment”.

I’ll be out door-knocking but will record it.

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Thornberry’s indifference helps kill Fuel Poverty Bill

If your MP could help pass a Bill in Parliament which could save lives, help the poorest people in Britain, help in the fight against climate change, and what’s more create jobs in a recession, don’t you think that would be worthwhile?

I do, and that’s why I backed the Fuel Poverty Bill introduced by Liberal Democrat MP David Heath.

With the spring weather we may forget the tragedy that 20,000 people needlessly die from the cold each year, and many more become ill. Fuel prices have more than doubled over the last five years. Many homes are poorly insulated so that energy is wasted.

The Fuel Poverty Bill would end fuel poverty by 2016 by bringing all homes up to standard and cutting fuel bills for the poorest families. It would mean fewer people face illness or death from cold and damp. It would help to reduce the wastage of energy which contributes to climate change. And it would produce work for thousands of people when we desperately need it.

The Bill has been backed by many major charities, including Help the Aged and Friends of the Earth. I want to thank all the Islington residents who signed my petition supporting the Bill. I would have voted for the Bill, and I congratulate MPs from all parties who did so.

Sadly I have to report that despite their hard work, the Bill will not go forward, because it just missed getting the 100 votes needed.

I am totally disgusted with Emily Thornberry, the Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury, who once again did not bother to vote.

This comes after she failed to vote on Heathrow or on knife crime, she voted in favour of Post Office closures, against tax cuts, and against more money for social housing in Islington.

It is a disgraceful record.

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Back the Fuel Poverty Bill

The Government has admitted that unemployment is now over the 2 million mark.

To quote Work & Pensions Minister (and former Islington councillor) James Purnell, “these are bad figures. There is no gloss that anyone is going to try and put on them.”

It’s hard to take in the scale of the figures – the latest rise, an extra 165,000 unemployed at the end of last year, is roughly equal to the population of Islington.

Just this week, I spoke to three different friends who are affected by this: one is preparing to reapply for his job, one is doing voluntary work while she’s job hunting and another is worried about his partner’s job in a round of redundancies. These are uncertain times.

The Government could and should take a bold stand and tackle the economic and the climate change crisis together: by creating jobs in the work that needs to be done insulating our homes, developing renewable energy, producing more food and goods locally, and providing better public transport.

Tomorrow sees the 2nd reading of David Heath’s Fuel Poverty Bill. By calling for major energy efficiency programme, to bring existing homes up to the current energy efficiency levels enjoyed by modern homes, it could tackle both unemployment and the impact of climate change.

I hope that for once, Emily Thornberry, Islington South’s Labour MP, will swallow her partisan pride and back this excellent Bill. Watch this space.

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Recession hits Islington

The UK is officially in recession, and Islington’s not immune.

The latest unemployment figures show that the number of people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance in Islington rose from 5,239 in November 2008 to 5,585 in December – that’s a 6.6% increase. That compares with a national increase in the unemployment rate for the 3 months previously of 6.1%. And that in turn is the worst for nearly a decade.

Islington isn’t a company town, we don’t rely on a single large employer. Islington people work in a rich mix of the City, the law and the NHS; shops, small local firms, local council and civil service, the media; and service industries from cleaning to web-design. So the borough has been protected from industry-specific downturns. But as the figures show, this general recession is hitting everyone. Plans for more local apprenticeships are one practical response.

Meanwhile our local Labour MP Emily Thornberry still seems in denial. Her website proclaims “Life for the people of Islington is getting better because we have a Labour government. Our economy is stronger and the money that the government is investing in Islington is making real improvements.”

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Spotlight on ‘Invisible Islington’

A new report from the Cripplegate Foundation - Invisible Islington – highlights the experiences of poor people in Islington, and the way different agencies are trying to tackle this.

Islington has far above average levels of lone parent households and of mental health problems. Both absolute and relative poverty are problems here: Islington has some of the most extreme polarisation between rich and poor in the country.

We already know about the health inequality in London, that GP services in poorer areas are underfunded, that half Islington’s children are growing up in poverty, and that 1 in 10 households are on waiting lists for affordable homes. It’s a terrible verdict on 11 years of Labour government, with Gordon Brown in Downing Street throughout. But the statistics don’t always have an impact the way individual stories do.

Cripplegate’s report covers real individuals in depth as well as looking at the policy headlines. It focuses on debt, unemployment and poor health as key problems – but also praises the crucial role family and close friends play in people’s lives. One reason why housing policies which keep family and community networks in place is so important in Islington.

Writing in the Evening Standard, Nick Cohen says:

“Around the corner from its Georgian terraces is some of the worst poverty in Western Europe: people of all colours who are crushed by debt and joblessness.

“The Cripplegate Foundation, which commissioned the study, dates back to 1500 and there is a medieval feel to the inner London it describes. On the one hand, we have super-gentrifiers in Barnsbury who are among the top earners on the planet. One hundred yards away in the King’s Cross estates are men with the lowest life expectancy in London.

“Perhaps we will soon feel more affinity with them. The chaos in the markets has made all but the most secure realise how precarious their wealth and status are, and how easy it could be to lose everything. Millions have had a reality check. About the only good thing that could come out of the crash is the realisation that poverty isn’t a joke.”

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