Give the Mayor control over JobcentrePlus and the Work Programme
In selecting these, we have identified policies that are:
- Significant ideas that would make a substantial contribution to tackling London’s challenges;
- Practical – could be introduced over the next four years, before the next election;
- Cost-neutral – could be introduced without significant increased spending
- Innovative – new ideas that have yet to be widely proposed;
- Broadly devolutionary – in keeping with our belief that Parliament should continue to devolve more responsibility to the GLA and downwards to local government.
GIVE THE MAYOR CONTROL OF JOBCENTREPLUS AND THE WORK PROGRAMME
London needs a programme designed specifically for the city to get its long-term unemployed back into work. Generic programmes run from national departments do not respond well enough to London’s needs.
Though London is an extraordinarily wealthy city and exciting place to live, too many Londoners are excluded from enjoying the city for the simple reason they don’t have a job. For twenty years London has had lower employment than the country as a whole. Incredibly, 1 in 3 working age Londoners are out of work, far higher than the 10 per cent officially unemployed.
A number of reasons explain why London has the worklessness problem it does. First the financial advantage people get from working – the difference between what you had been receiving in benefits and what your new monthly pay, otherwise known as ‘gains to work’ - are lower in London than elsewhere. Childcare, transport and other costs that come with having a job are higher in London than elsewhere – in other words, in London, it doesn’t always pay to work. Housing benefit, a necessary safeguard for the unemployed, has the unintended consequence of making many dependent on it for their rent, which discourages them from moving into work.
Second, training, and other into-work services are relatively poorly funded in London, with government policy taking little or no allowance of the extra costs of running these services in London.
These two problems are two facets of a single, deeper problem: skills and work policy is largely designed and run by the Department of Work and Pensions, rather than by London government. Our proposal is to 'Londonise' welfare, so that the city has a system better suited to its conditions. We say give the Mayor control of Jobcentre Plus, the Work Programme – a scheme where mainly private companies try to help the long-term unemployed find work – and the skills budgets for a start. And let Londoners, in general a fairly energetic and inventive bunch, create better ways of getting more people into work. Further down the road, there is a similar case that can be made for devolving control of the entire benefits system to London.