London boroughs are calling for the power to co-locate Jobcentres alongside other council services to improve co-ordination and target the hardest to reach jobseekers.
The call comes in a new report by London Councils which demands stronger local powers to address long-term unemployment and in-work poverty.
The report - Better Ways to Work: Tackling labour market disadvantage in London - suggests high employment rates disguise substantial weaknesses in the capital’s labour market.
At 15.5% London has the highest youth unemployment in the country and people with disabilities in the capital are far more likely to be unemployed than those without. In total 1.3 million working-age Londoners are economically inactive, the report states.
While the jobcentre network is currently overseen by the Department for Work and Pensions the report argues that councils are best placed to reach vulnerable people as they already provide them with key services. Therefore boroughs should act as “trailblazers” and co-locate employment and council services within four sub-regional partnerships in the capital, it says.
The report comes on the back of a growing move towards devolved powers for employment services. Last year it was announced the employment support programme in London would be delivered by the four sub-regions providing support for thousands of harder-to-help claimants. The sub-regions were backed with £135m of DWP funding, matched by European social funds.
The London Councils report says all new employment support programmes should follow a “local first” approach and schemes should “re-focus” on the long-term unemployed.
It proposes creating a shared data infrastructure and giving councils new powers to enforce the national minimum and living wages.
While HMRC should continue targeted enforcement and providing a national helpline, empowering boroughs would be a major boost to local enforcement efforts, the report says.
In addition, a new Healthy Working Innovation Fund should be developed.
To deliver these reforms a Memorandum of Understanding would need to be signed between London local government, the Mayor and national government, the report states.
Cllr Georgia Gould, London Councils’ Executive member for skills & employment, said: “While London appears an immensely wealthy city with a strong economy, scratch beneath the surface and it becomes clear the capital faces serious challenges of unemployment, poverty, and exploitation. London boroughs need to be properly empowered to help ensure no Londoner is left behind.”
She added: “With the right tools, boroughs would develop better ways to support the long-term unemployed into work or to lead clampdowns on local employers who fail to pay the minimum wage. We could reshape London’s labour market so that it works for everyone.”