Local initiatives help cut jobless totals – minister

Mark Hoban MP

Mark Hoban MP - Credit: Archant

Targeted local schemes such as the regional growth fund and the Norwich for Jobs campaign were playing a part in bring down the numbers claiming job seekers allowance, a government minister claimed yesterday.

Speaking to the EDP at Westminster, employment minister Mark Hoban said the programmes were having an impact. He spoke as the latest unemployment figures revealed that across Norfolk, Waveney and Fenland the claimant count fell 7pc compared to a year ago to 20,776 in June and 13pc on the previous quarter.

Nationally total unemployment fell by 57,000 in the quarter to May to 2.51 million, the lowest since last autumn, while the claimant count was cut by 21,200 in June to 1.48 million, the best figure for more than two years.

But the fall in the number claiming out-of-work benefits was overshadowed by national figures which showed long-term unemployment has increased to a 17-year high.

Mr Hoban said: 'Actually the number of people claiming jobseekers' allowance has fallen across the country. One of the differences in our approach is to do much more localised schemes.'

He added that he was planning to visit Norfolk to see the Norwich for Jobs scheme, led by MP Chloe Smith to halve Norwich youth unemployment in two years, first hand.

'What we see is a number of MPs, and Chloe is a great example of this, saying 'What can I do to make a difference in my community?'

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'There is something really powerful about bringing people together with employers and I have seen it at jobs fairs where there has been huge queues out of the door and hundreds of jobs on offer. If you challenge employers by asking 'what are you going to do to tackle unemployment in your community? What are you going to do to offer long-term unemployed a job?' – it can be a great catalyst to get people to go further.'

But he also acknowledged that there were still high levels of unemployment in coastal towns such as Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft. In Yarmouth the claimant count fell 87 to 3,276 on last year and 785 on the quarter.

But Mr Hoban said the growth in the offshore sector was seen as being a 'a very powerful generator' and schemes such as the London Array windfarm in Margate would help coastal communities in East Anglia.