The Bickerstaffe Record
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Being Labour, Cotterill on the Council

Will West Lancs get its share of the £1 billion government jobs cash?

05.28.09 | 2 Comments

Having had a modicum of success getting action out of the Conservative Council on the much delayed community transport scheme for West Lancashire, I’ll very happily try the same tactics again.

So…. here’s a call to the council to get its act together pronto over an application to the central government Department for Work and Pensions for a share of the £1billion Future Jobs Fund, announced in the budget and for which the bidding guikdance and application form is now available.

The essence of this scheme is the provision of short term government funding to help people gain work through the recession.

The fund is aimed at creating new jobs for young people (specifically 18-24 year-olds who have been in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance for a period approaching 12 months).  The fund is also aimed at adult jobseekers in deprived communities, such as those in Skelmersdale.

According to the guidance, the government will pay up to £6,500 for every person employed under the scheme for a minimum of six months.

The jobs can be with a wider variety of businesses and organisations, and it’s the council’s job to work together with these different ‘players’ to see who can provide what jobs, and come up with a co-ordinated application to the government for funding.

If the council gets its act together and we get our due share of this government cash, we should get very roughly £2 million (pro-rata calculations based on the £1bn budget, very roughly 50 million people in the country, and around 100,000 in West Lancashire).  That could mean up to 200-300 jobs created, ‘offsetting’ some of the damage done by the council’s own decision to slash jobs and services this year (though it is hard to compare the two areas directly).

But the council needs to move quickly, making arrangements with all the other players, and getting a strong application together. Successful applications received early enough  will have an October 2009 start, and this is the kind if help the area needs as soon as possible.

You can bet your bottom dollar that if we don’t make the deadline, we’ll lose out to others that do. For example, I’ve already had an email announcing Sefton council’s intention to put together ‘a major bid’ in respect of what’s descrvied as a ‘massive opportunity’, and  inviting suggestions on how the voluntary sector might create such jobs in that area.

Will our Conservative council respond in time? Well, there’s no great track record, and the decision taken earlier in the year to ‘downsize’ the Estates and Regeneration Division of the Council just when we seem to need it most may come back to haunt them and, much more importantly, hathm the job prospects of people in West Lancashire.

Certainly I’ve seen no evidence as yet of any consultation with business and voluntary organisations about what jobs they can provide in return for the funding, though there is still time to get that sorted.

If the council does fail to come up with the goods, then the residents of West Lancashire will be entitled to ask why, and Labour won’t be slow to ask them either.

I hope that this polite warning shot across the bows is enough to ensure that the right action gets taken, right bow.

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