TO a certain extent, David Cameron was right when he said youth unemployment started to rise alarmingly under Labour. That said, the Prime Minister cannot absolve himself from responsibility for joblessness now hitting a 17-year high.
So far, this Government has delivered four budgets, or seminal economic statements. They were all opportunities to put in place the building blocks for growth. And, while the PM was contrite when he accepted the latest rise was “bad news”, he should try telling that to the 9,000 additional people who now find themselves out of work in Yorkshire.
The jobless increase in Yorkshire alone will not even be offset by the 6,000 new jobs that Bradford-based supermarket giant Morrisons hopes to create across Britain next year.
And while Morrisons is to be commended for efforts to recruit locally when it opens a new store, and its continued insistence that building contractors use local labour, it is vital that the Government persuades more people to follow the supermarket’s lead.
However, new retail jobs, though welcome, are not the answer to Britain’s economic woes. The crucial ingredient – still missing – is a revitalised private sector that has the scope to expand, and also provide opportunities for those public workers who will continue to be shed as Mr Cameron’s administration desperately gets to grips with the budget deficit.
The Tory leader used the final Prime Minister’s Questions of 2011 to talk about the work experience placements, apprenticeships and youth contracts that are being set up, and claim that Britain was better placed now to withstand the economic challenges that remain here and throughout Europe.
Yet the problem is that it is the North, an area neglected by the Thatcher and Major governments, that is, again, bearing the brunt of the Conservatives’ failure to recognise this region’s over-dependence on the public sector, and the need for alternative jobs to accommodate those laid-off by local authorities and so forth.
Mr Cameron’s challenge, heading into 2012, is to ensure that growth underpins every decision. Nothing less will suffice.