Gloucester, the constituency I represented for nearly nine years in Parliament, is on the verge of an unemployment crisis.
Readers of the local newspaper have often commented on the number of boarded up shops in the town centre as the lack of local demand has resulted in many high street retailers voting with their feet.
From last November to this November Gloucester’s claimant rate for Job Seeker’s Allowance has risen by nearly 20%. The Coalition’s harsh cuts are hitting Gloucester disproportionately because, like many areas of need, it received major investment in its public sector during the Labour years. Local schools, the police force and the hospital were crying out for investment after all.
Currently nearly 900 people under the age of 24 in Gloucester are looking for work, that’s a 38% rise in twelve months.
Instead of campaigning to boost the lack of local demand in to our struggling economy – which is now hurting retailers in the Quays almost as badly as those in the high street – coalition politicians have watched idly as the government saps demand further by proposing to put 710,000 public sector workers out of a job (compared to their initial estimate of 400,000). So retailers will be hit by the drying up of even more consumer demand.
What Gloucester desperately needs is a cut in tax, such as VAT to get people spending again and the reintroduction of the Future Jobs Fund to get young people back in to work. The Future Jobs Fund was helping over 130 young people in to work before it was cut by the government, only to be replaced by hollow words about apprenticeships.
Thus far there has been no local plan to get us out of this mess. When politicians stop listening to local people and start thinking about their own survival, you end up with knee-jerk decisions with bad repercussions. The Railway Triangle plan is one such example of this. The views of local people and the need to create high skilled jobs for the long-term have been ignored.
For young people in Gloucester the prospects of getting a good job are receding each month – the EMA has been scrapped and ordinary working families are left wondering whether £9,000 per year of debt to fund a university place is a price worth paying.
The government’s policies have resulted in an increase of national debt to the tune of £158 billion. YetGloucester is on the verge of spiralling in to economic decline. In Gloucester, the coalition’s harsh cuts are hurting, there’s no sign of them working.