Letter: All-round failure is to blame for long-term unemployment

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The Independent Online
Sir: I welcome Robert Skidelsky's article ('An end to state-assisted idleness', 29 June) for raising the problem of long-term unemployment, but much of what he argues is just plain silly.

To assert: 'Paradoxically, it was the very success of the market reforms of the Eighties in freeing up labour markets that created long-term unemployment' is nonsense. It is the failure of the Government's economic policy in the Eighties that has led to long-term unemployment. It is the failure of the market to invest in enough training that compounds the problem. It is the Government's failure to intervene in that market failure which means long-term unemployment will persist. There is no paradox, just all-round failure.

Nor is it true that 'most training schemes are government run'; they are government funded through the TECs (training and enterprise councils), but the TECs contract out to private training providers and colleges. But, it is not who runs the schemes that is the problem, it is lack of funds. TEC budgets have been cut and cut again. What has been driving the Government's attitude to training is the short-term political necessity to get the unemployment figures down, not the long- term goal of investing in improving the skills of the nation.

Economic recovery is the answer to long-term unemployment, and investing in skills is part of that recovery. Job creation programmes and employment subsidies have a role to play in times of high unemployment, but they are not a substitute for the acquisition of skills. We need to develop a skills culture in our society and invest in the training that promotes those skills. The role of government should be to lead and support the development of that culture. Another failure.



MP for Stretford (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1

30 June