Council call for devolved work programme

Liverpool City Council, in partnership with a group of 22 other “co-operative” councils, are actively urging the UK government to devolve power over part of its back-to-work programme to regional authorities after mass disappointment at the lack of help from Whitehall for long-term unemployed and other “hard to help” groups.

As part of a report published by the Co-operative Councils Innovation Network (CCIN), Liverpool City Council said that locally-led co-operative employment schemes were far more effective at getting people back  into jobs.

CCIN said that devolution of power to a local level would give regional powers the chance to scale up successful co-operative approaches, predicting that this would stimulate the creation of as many as 90,000 jobs and reduce the cost of employment programmes by as much as 25%; saving the taxpayer as much as £500 million.

These claims were backed by a recent report from the Public Accounts Committee, which  claim that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has not succeeded in incentivising Work Programme providers to provide harder-to-help claimants with work, with almost 90% of Employment and Support Allowance claimants on the Work Programme having not moved into jobs.

This is despite the number of harder-to-help claimants rising significantly since 2011: 25% of people who entered the Work Programme in September 2014 were on ESA, compared to just 3% when the scheme first started.

In the report, entitled “Unlocking Our Wealth”, all 23 co-operative councils argued that devolution of the adult skills budget, and other employment support would help local authorities offer better assistance to hard-to-help claimants (typically those with a range of  disabilities and mental health challenges).

  • All 23 councils, including Liverpool City Council, concluded that (at odds with Whitehall) local approaches designed around people’s needs would have a much greater chance of success, with a social return of £3 on every £1 invested. Examples from the report included:
  • Business in the Community’s Ready to Work programme, which leverages public sector funding to attract private sector resources to support homeless people into employment. The effectiveness of this cooperative approach to employment support for disadvantaged groups is such that were it to be scaled up nationally we could secure job outcomes for participants at between 25 per cent and 40 per cent less cost per person.
  • Liverpool Schools Investment Programme, which is seeing 12 new schools being built and over 60% of construction jobs going to local people.  This compares with only 20% of jobs going to local people with the previous Building Schools for the Future Wave 2 programme run by a central government quango.
  • The Liverpool City Region’s Youth Employment Initiative, which will see £19m invested to help thousands of young people across the City region get back into work.

At a launch event for the report, all councils called on the UK government to put their trust in regional understanding with council leaders saying that they “know their areas, they know what works, what matters and how to get things done.”  However, regional authorities lack the power to enact locally designed changes, away from national targets that hinder focus on local impact

Local councils also argued that current budgets were locked up amongst different agencies whose remit was solely focussed on national  priorities, and that services should rather be rendered by local authorities who can focus on the local impact.

All councils present at the event pledged to strike new local deals with more than 1,000 businesses to help get more people back into the workforce, with promises to do more to get businesses involved in the leadership of their local area and to use their regional buying power to promote local innovation amongst businesses and social enterprises.

The report was a product of a six-month policy commission on community resilience, jobs and growth that took in evidence from job-seekers, businesses and councils up and down the country. All 23 councils proposed that three new cooperative deals were struck by local authorities:

  • A new deal with job-seekers, based on relationships with them as individuals
  • A new deal with businesses, based on genuine partnership and quid pro quo
  • A new deal with government, based on what works and trust

These 23 councils represent five million British citizens, with as many as 97,000 residents on Jobseekers Allowance; of whom, 29,000 would be described as “hard-to-reach” due to their long-term unemployment. All councils further represent 310,000 citizens on ESA and incapacity benefits, with 508,000 citizens on out-of-work benefits in total.

Liverpool’s cabinet Member for Employment & Skills Cllr Nick Small sat on the Policy Commission, saying:

“The Government’s flagship Work Programme isn’t working.  We got a rigid national skills system is training young people for jobs that don’t exist, while employers face enormous shortages in other sectors. The same money would go much further if it were spent locally by local authorities who know the employment challenges in their patch.

“Cooperative councils are innovating, not waiting. But we need government to recognise that the status quo isn’t working. A package of funding, including money for skills, employment and health, should be devolved to councils to enable them to provide tailored packages of support to help those who are most excluded get into sustainable work.

“The adult skills budget should be devolved to local areas so businesses, colleges and training organisations can work together to equip our citizens with the skills that we actually need for future jobs and growth. Town Halls are better placed than Whitehall to unlock the wealth of talent there is in our communities.

“But it’s not just about replacement Whitehall with the Town Hall.  Councils are already devolving to communities and individuals.  This is about striking a new balance between government councils and communities.”


Image Credit


Words: Peter Cribley

You might also like More from author

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Username field is empty.