Welfare to work programme in ‘chaos’

MP Kevin Barron
MP Kevin Barron

The Government’s welfare to work programme is in chaos, as new figures show a sharp rise in the number of households where no one has ever worked.

The number of households where no one has ever worked rose sharply in the last quarter of 2011 to 291,000 - a rise of over 7 per cent on the year before. House of Commons Library research shows the Government is now set to splurge an incredible £9 billion more than planned on dole payments and housing benefits.

Recent revelations include the unemployment minister being forced to admit some Government contractors may leave the troubled Work Programme, despite him claiming to be ‘relaxed’ about it.

The Programme has been hit by allegations of fraud at some of the contractors, while the Institute for Fiscal Studies has said botched council tax benefit changes will ‘severely undermine’ the new Universal Credit set to be introduced in just over a year.

A year after the Government’s Work Programme started, we’ve seen the number of people out of work in the Rother Valley go up by 7.5 per cent. Now we learn the number of households where someone has never worked has hit an all time high. This is fresh proof the Government’s welfare to work reforms are in disarray.

Last December Ofcom announced proposals for awarding the first round of local TV licences in 20 areas across the UK. They have now written to me to confirm that Sheffield and areas in Rotherham and the Rother Valley will also be included as one of the first areas to have its own local TV station.

Ofcom will assess applications for local TV licences against the criteria set down by Parliament. It includes meeting the needs of an area, broadening the range of programmes available, increasing local programmes and the ability to maintain the proposed service.

Ofcom also expect proposed local TV services to engage with the local democratic process. Therefore applicants will have to consider what programming they put forward to facilitate civic understanding and fair and well-informed debate, through coverage of local news and current affairs.

Licences will be for a 12 year term and as well as broadcasting on digital terrestrial television (Freeview), local TV channels may choose to offer their services on satellite, cable and online.

The deadline for applications is 13th August, with Ofcom anticipating to start awarding licences from this autumn. For more information visit http://licensing.ofcom.org.uk/tv-broadcast-licences/local/