Tuesday 27 October 2020 6:55 am

Exclusive: City Hall and government urged to tackle capital’s ‘jobs crisis’

The government and City Hall must work together to tackle the jobs crisis that is set to see more than 130,000 Londoners fall into long-term unemployment in 2020/21, a new report shared exclusively with City A.M. has argued.

The Learning and Work Institute’s (LWI) report said Londoners had been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic. It said the capital’s benefits claimant count had soared 161 per cent since March, the highest rise in the country. It was at 488,000 in September.

Unemployment in London was 5.3 per cent in August compared to 4.5 per cent in the UK, the statistics office said last month.

LWI – a think tank focused on full employment and inclusion – said the low paid had borne much of the pain. Its report said they were nearly four times as likely to have lost their jobs during coronavirus than other Londoners.

“Low paid workers in the capital have been hit hardest by the labour market crisis,” said LWI head Stephen Evans.

“We need to see central government, the mayor of London and local government working together to create jobs, and ramp up employment advice, and retraining support.” 

However, the relationship between the government and the mayor’s office is currently extremely strained. The two are locked in a spat over a bailout for Transport for London, and have clashed over coronavirus controls.

London boroughs urged to focus on kickstart jobs

Nonetheless, LWI said better cooperation was the only way to avoid the problems that plagued the recovery from the financial crisis. Although employment grew, poverty levels flatlined, the think tank said.

City Hall backed the LWI’s plans, saying it was willing to work with government on a “secure and sustainable recovery”. The Treasury did not respond to a request for comment.

The report said one area in which local government could help was in focusing on the government’s “kickstart” jobs programme.

It aims to subsidise hundreds of thousands of temporary job opportunities for young people at risk of long-term unemployment. 

The LWI said London boroughs should work as intermediaries to help small firms take on young workers. And it said they should “promote the scheme and drive up the number of opportunities”.

The think tank also urged the government to increase universal credit benefits.

Ministers have beefed up support by £20 a week. Yet the UK’s offering remains one of the lowest compared to similar countries.

Debbie Weekes-Bernard, a deputy mayor of London, supported the proposals. She told City A.M. ministers should show “their dedication” by “committing to work alongside City Hall and London’s councils toward a more secure and sustainable recovery”.

The LWI also suggested local and central government should work together to help people retrain who have to move jobs.

It recommended expanding the government’s current skills programme so that those with existing level three qualifications – equivalent to A-levels – can retrain for free.