A WAR of words over unemployment figures has signalled the start of the fight for Stafford’s parliamentary seat.
Labour Party parliamentary prospect Kate Godfrey hit out this week over rising numbers of people in the county town claiming job seekers allowance.
She told the Newsletter that recently announced figures showed people applying for unemployment benefit had risen by two per cent in the last year with a 42 per cent rise in people claiming for more than 12 months.
“The people of Stafford are paying the price of Tory failure,” said Ms Godfrey. “News that long term long term unemployment in Stafford has risen by 42% is shocking.
“It shows that the Tory-led Government has got it wrong on the economy.” She called on the Government to ‘get a grip’ and focus on getting growth into the economy.
“Hard working towns like Stafford are getting hit hardest by the Tory-led Government’s failures,” she said. “Good quality jobs in Stafford are being lost and the cost of living is spiralling for ordinary people.
“At the same time the Tories are cutting taxes for millionaires to the tune of £40,000 next year.
“The Tory-led Government is out of touch with the people of Stafford,” she said. “The people of Stafford deserve better.”
Stafford MP Jeremy Lefroy said the number of people claiming unemployment benefit in the constituency when Labour left office was 1,732 and the years since had seen that figure drop to 1,580.
“This represents a rate of 3.3 per cent of the economically active population aged 16 to 64, the 461st highest of the 650 UK constituencies,” he said. “That means almost three quarters of the country is worse of than we are.
“With Perkins making redundancies at the end of last year and seasonal jobs with Amazon coming to an end a small rise in the first few months of the year was expected, as has happened in previous years.”
Additionally Mr Lefroy said the nomis data – the official labour market statisics – for Stafford showed employment had risen over the last year.
“Numbers of people in work in Stafford rose from 45,500 in September 2011 to 49,200 in September 2012 which marries with increased numbers of people in work all over the UK.”
Mr Lefroy said there was a situation in Stafford currently where a large number of vacancies existed, but they were jobs of a skilled nature not always matched by those in the town out of work.
“Alstom currently have around 160 vacancies but they are for engineers and technicians and skilled roles like that,” said Mr Lefroy.
He said he was working with Stafford College and Staffordshire County Council to try to encourage young people in the area to train and build careers in those areas of work.
“Particularly in jobs like IT, caring, and in engineering where there are jobs available in Stafford now and in the future.
“I don’t want to pretend there isn’t a problem,” said Mr Lefroy.
“I would hate to be out of work. “Nearly everybody wants to work and there is a problem, but we have got to find solutions, we cannot just sit on the sidelines.”
Mr Lefroy said the recent news that Debenhams might be moving into Stafford town centre would hopefully prove relief to some of the retail workers suffering in the current high street crash as would the plans for a Marks and Spencer store.
“I’m hoping the people being laid off from the Co-op will be able to find new employment there.”
Mr Lefroy urged anyone interested in skilled work in engineering, health and social care work and technical roles could contact his office and they would attempt to point them in the direction of opportunities.