THE council’s Job Shop in Coventry city centre faces the axe to save £500,000 in budget cuts -despite delivering multi-million pound taxpayer savings by getting thousands back into work.
The proposal has been labelled a false economy by concerned professionals and campaigners who say £19million of UK and European funding will also be lost – and welfare benefits would rise.
Campaigners and staff also fear job losses – not just at the Job Shop but among 20 local organisations supporting young people.
Coventry City Council’s Labour leaders themselves had heralded the Job Shop – set up after recession following the 2008 global crash – as a ‘Keynesian’ stimulus for the local economy, and to protect vulnerable people from ‘austerity’ cuts.
It was opened partly to tackle youth unemployment levels of over 25 per cent – and support so-called NEETS (Not in Employment, Education or Training. It has been working alongside other funded services under the umbrella ‘Ambition Coventry’.
But council leaders now say government funding cuts are set to continue to 2020, and will rise to an annual £100million lost to the council and local economy.
The council proposes a £500,000 cut to the Employment Team for the 2017/18 budget, which will be voted on by councillors at a full council meeting next month. A public consultation on the budget proposals ends next week.
The Budget document states: “This proposal would end most of the employment support services provided by the Council. This would mean closing the Job Shop, stopping the NEETS placement service and the Youth Employment Initiative.”
One campaigner who did not wish to be named as he works for Ambition Coventry said: “There are important points that the residents of Coventry should be made aware of. There will be a loss of over £18 million pounds of external funding (secured for the next three years) – over £10 million of which will be European funding for Ambition Coventry.
“The Job Shop is key to delivering these projects, and most of the funding is only available as ‘match funding’ against the money the council puts in.
“Why deny the citizens of Coventry this money? The loss of funding would also potentially stop ‘Ambition Coventry’ and this would effect over 20 local organisations (and their staff employment) who support unemployed young people in to employment.
“These services are used by tens of thousands of people across Coventry, including some of our most vulnerable and disadvantaged residents.”
A Freedom of Information request to the council reveals the Job Shop has an average of 152 customers visiting every day, and since 2013 over 25,000 people have used the service. More than 5600 have gone into work as a result.
The Job Shop also helps local firms to recruit, helping over 600 local companies and creating 898 vacancies for its customer base in the last two years alone.
Campaigners say thhe service is unique as it is available to everyone, regardless of age, benefits or employment status.
Around two-thirds of people using the Job Shop do not receive support from JobCentre Plus.
Council calculations show these cuts would remove support from 19,738 Coventry residents over the next three years, and 4452 fewer people would secure employment.
Some 6870 vulnerable people and priority groups (for example, lone parents and people with disabilities) would miss out on assistance to get them back into work, with 2160 fewer securing good quality work.
Without projects like Ambition Coventry, 2292 young people would lose out on employment support in the next year alone.
Yet in addition to the social and health benefits of being in work, it is estimated the average fiscal gain of one jobseeker moving into work is £8100, or £9000 for someone economically inactive. And each young person prevented from becoming NEET saves public finances £104,000 over their lifetime.