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Review supports six-year job budget

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Six-year budgets should be given to councils that agree plans with the government to combat worklessness and low skills.

That is the main proposal from a government review by Barnsley MBC leader Stephen Houghton (Lab) of local action on worklessness.

Cllr Houghton, whose final report is due in the spring, said upper-tier councils should analyse the causes of local worklessness and then agree long-term plans with the government.

Such authorities would benefit from greater spending freedoms in six-year budgets comprising money from the Working Neighbourhoods Fund and employment programmes.

Public sector employers should be required to offer apprenticeships, advertise all vacancies with JobCentre Plus and encourage contract bidders to employ local people, Cllr Houghton said.

“As leader of a council where worklessness is a significant issue, I know how difficult it can be,” he said. “That’s why we recommend an increased role for councils, working with partners, including with other councils, on the solutions.”

In response, employment minister Tony McNulty welcomed the principle that local partners could do more for the poorest neighbourhoods.

Meanwhile, the Audit Commission has said that councils could learn from regeneration work in the coalfields as they plan how to help their communities weather the recession.

Its report, A Mine of Opportunities, said councils deserved much of the credit for the economic recovery of former mining areas.

The coalfields’ experience had shown that early intervention was vital after major job losses to boost skills and to prevent the growth of ingrained social problems, it said.

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