Unemployment rate for 16 and 17 year olds soars

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The Independent Online

The number of post-GCSE teenagers out of work and school has almost trebled since Labour came to power, government figures showed yesterday.

The statistics appear to confirm rising concern in local communities about gangs of youths hanging around street corners and shopping centres. They came as a separate report warned control of urban centres was being handed to private companies with powers to ban youths from their developments.

A report from the Office for National Statistics showed the number of 16 and 17 year olds who were economically inactive had soared from 11.4 per cent at the end of 1998 to a record 28.1 per cent a year ago.

The Department for Work and Pensions played down the figures, saying the position was broadly unchanged at about 10 per cent if part-time education was included. "We are not suggesting one in 10 is acceptable and we want to get more people either into work or training depending on their preferred option," a spokesman said.

Tom Wylie, the chief executive of the National Youth Agency, said: "If you look at the 16 to 25 group you have a million people inactive, which is far too many," he said. "There should be a greater number of programmes to recapture people for learning."

He said state spending on the 13 to 19 population was just £70 per person per year compared with £5,000 for schoolchildren and £78,000 for youth custody.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said the private sector was gaining control of large city centre sites previously under local authority control. It said one scheme in Liverpool would see 34 streets privatised, with "public realm arrangement" policed by US-style sheriffs.

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