On Monday 2 April 2012, the £1bn Youth Contract will start. The Youth Contract was announced last year by Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg to tackle youth unemployment.
The Youth Contract aims to ensure that all jobless young people are earning or learning again before long-term damage is done.
In Waltham Forest, 2,570 18 to 24-year olds are currently in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance and would stand to benefit from the Youth Contract.
The Youth Contract will provide at least 410,000 new work places for 18 to 24-year olds over the next three years. This includes 160,000 wage subsidies and 250,000 new work experience placements.
A new programme will help 16 and 17-year olds who are not in employment, education or training (NEETs).
This will help the most disengaged of the 8,000 in London get back to school or college, onto an apprenticeship or into a job with training.
In addition, there will be at least 20,000 more incentive payments to encourage employers to take on young apprentices in England.
Commenting, Cllr Winnie Smith, Lib Dem Deputy Leader said:
“In these tough times Liberal Democrats are doing the right thing and fighting to ensure we help those who need it most.
“Waltham Forest has had a problem with youth unemployment for a long time and it only got worse under the last Labour government. We have to make sure that the today’s young people don’t have a false start to their careers.
“In Waltham Forest we tried to get Labour to take the issue of jobs and youth unemployment seriously in our amendment to the council’s budget in March but they ignored it.”
“The Youth Contract will help those who need it most through advice, support, training and by giving people in Waltham Forest the experience they need to be successful in the work place.
“As a Liberal Democrat, I am proud that the Coalition Government is doing the right thing and working to prevent another lost generation.”
Commenting further, Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg said:
“Youth unemployment is a slow-burn social disaster and an economic waste.
“We can’t lose the skills and talent of our young people – right when we need them most. We need the next generation to help us build a new economy.
“The aim of the Youth Contract is to get every unemployed young person earning or learning again before long-term damage is done, giving them the skills for a lifetime of work.
“This is a £1bn package and it will get young people into proper, lasting jobs.”
Last Thursday the Labour Council voted to close down Harrow Green Library. Residents had raised a petition of over 5,000 signatures and local Lib Dems had also raised a petition of over 1,1000 signatures to save the library.
Despite these petitions, fierce local residents’ opposition to the proposal and impassioned speeches, Labour Councillors voted to close the Library. The Tories abstained and the Liberal Democrats were the only party to vote against the closure. Even local Labour Councillors, whose residents had campaigned to stop the closure, voted to shut down Harrow Green Library.
Local Lib Dem Cann Hall Ward Councillor Liz Phillips, who has been leading the campaign in the council said:
“Local residents worked hard on this issue and took time out of their day to come and speak in the debate in good faith, only to find that the Labour Party had stitched up the result in advance.
“I’m not surprised that some residents walked out in disgust. Labour has refused to listen to local residents all along and this council meeting was no different.
“The Labour councillors can’t use a cut in the budget to hide the fact that it is them who are closing down our local library.”
The closure was based on the widely criticised libraries’ review and despite the consultation process, two petitions and recommendations from the council’s own scrutiny panel that no libraries needed to close, the Labour leadership refused to change course.
Lib Dem Leader Councillor Bob Sullivan said:
“The Libraries’ Review has been widely criticised and appears to have been a foregone conclusion from the start.
“The questions asked in the consultation were clearly misleading. For example, residents were asked if they would like their library to start opening on Sundays, but weren’t asked if they minded other libraries closing for this to be achieved.
“Of course residents suggest improved services, but if they knew that the council were robbing Harrow Green to pay for those services I believe they would think again.
Liberal Democrat councillors are pressing the Government to provide money for new school buildings for our local children.
“Anyone who has visited schools such as George Mitchell and Buxton (formerly Tom Hood) knows how much new buildings are needed. We owe it to the children of our borough to do all we can to provide them with the high quality education they deserve. This includes making sure that they can learn in decent surroundings,” said Liberal Democrat Group Leader Bob Sullivan.
The Liberal Democrat group is hugely disappointed that the cancellation of Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme has hit local schools so badly. It is an enormous shame, but if Labour had made faster progress with the BSF schemes since 2003 we would not now be in the situation where more Waltham Forest schools have been stopped compared with other boroughs. However Lib Dem councillors believe the important thing is what happens next.
Councillor Winnie Smith says: “BSF was a cumbersome, bureaucratic and expensive way of funding school buildings which funnelled money into the pockets of consultants and private contractors. The government has pledged to continue to invest in school buildings and the Liberal Democrats will be at the forefront of the campaign to make sure that Waltham Forest schools get their fair share of this spending.”