James Moore: Helping the wasted Neets should be urgent priority

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The Independent Online

Outlook It seems the Christmas spirit is strong in Wales and it has infected the Office for National Statistics, which provided a little present for everyone with yesterday's GDP revisions.

The pessimists (and there are a lot of them) were given every reason to feel their predictions of doom are justified by the fact that the UK's annual growth was left unchanged at a torpid 0.5 per cent.

That is not least because growth ground to a halt in the second quarter, being revised down from 0.1 per cent to zero.

But the optimists, and there aren't many of them outside the Government benches in the Palace of Westminster, were given some crumbs of comfort too in that third-quarter growth was revised upwards, to 0.6 per cent from 0.5 per cent thanks to a stronger-than-expected service sector.

Whichever way you slice and dice the numbers, though, one thing that hasn't changed is that there are over 1 million young people who contributed absolutely nothing to them as result of their status as Neets, which means not in employment, education or training.

Neet is a really rather tidy little acronym that attempts to sugar a very bitter pill, rather like referring to shooting your own troops as "friendly fire" or to shooting civilians as "minor collateral damage".

The current generation of political leaders have been squeezing the young economically in a quite unprecedented manner. They had free higher education and grants. They imposed tuition fees of £9,000 a year. They had access to mortgages. Getting one of them as a first-time buyer was extremely difficult even before the Financial Services Authority introduced rules to make it even harder. And so on.

The economic cost of the misdeeds of their parents has fallen squarely on the young, and no group has been squeezed more than the Neets. The trouble is that if you squeeze something too hard it has a tendency to pop.

Letting such a huge body of people go to waste is dangerous socially and economically foolish. It is also morally indefensible.

The deputy prime minister Nick Clegg appeared to have at least recognised the problem by putting aside some cash to subsidise youth employment.

Welcome enough, but basically window dressing. More needs to be done, and quickly. We know all about the budget deficit and how it has to be cleared. But tidying up the Neets should be an equally high priority.