Today’s speech by Ed Miliband establishes a clear dividing line in British politics: between Labour, the Party of Work – determined to tackle our economic policies by ensuring that everyone who can work does – and the Tories and Liberal Democrats who want to punish those who cannot find work.
We would put a limit on how long anyone who can work, can stay unemployed, without getting and taking a job.
For every young man and woman who has been out of work for more than a year, we would say to every business in the country, we will pay the wages for 25 hours a week, on at least the minimum wage.
Fully funded by a tax on bankers’ bonuses.
The business would provide the training of at least 10 hours a week.
And because it is a compulsory jobs guarantee, young people will have an obligation to take a job after a year or lose their benefits.
And we will do the same for everyone over 25 unemployed for more than two years.
I was particularly pleased to see the emphasis on housing and what is wrong with the current system:
Thirty years ago for every £100 we spent on housing, £80 was invested in bricks and mortar and £20 was spent on housing benefit.
Today, for every £100 we spend on housing, just £5 is invested in bricks and mortar and £95 goes on housing benefit.
There’s nothing to be celebrated in that.
And as a consequence we are left with a housing benefit bill that goes up higher and higher.
For the simple reason, that we have built too few homes in this country and therefore we see higher and higher prices, particularly in the private sector.
Ed goes on to point out that Britain is building fewer new homes than at any time since the 1920s. Studies show Gwynedd needs 500 new homes each year yet fewer than 200 are being completed. There are many homes that need improved energy efficiency. At the same time in Arfon alone there are about 4,000 people seeking work. Less than half of them are claiming job seekers allowance. It is getting people back into work and paying taxes that will fix the deficit.
I was also pleased to see an emphasis on working locally and with business to make this happen:
And to those who say the work simply isn’t there, I say with a national mission, led from the top of government, we can get thousands of businesses, tens of thousands, in the country behind the idea.
Businesses and social enterprises that are desperate to give people a chance.
And while the jobs guarantee is national we will make it happen through local action.
The kind of local action I’ve seen here in Newham.
Devolving power and resources to local communities so there can be advice and support suitable for the individual who is looking for work and tailored to the particular needs of businesses in the area.
The Tories will no doubt claim that these measures will increase the deficit. But they have had three years to disprove the economists and cut their way out of a recession. They have comprehensively failed – for all the headlines about whether the economy is growing or reducing and whether the deficit is up or down, in broad terms they have stayed the same.
So we need to try an alternative approach – one which includes investment up front, but pays for itself in the long term. Paying people to build affordable homes is one of the most obvious ways of doing this.