What are the headlines for employment and the economy?

The Tories would have us believe all is well.

The truth is somewhat different in Wyre Forest as we have a False Unemployment rate, staggering self employment levels, low job density rate, low stagnating wages, insecure employment, loss of welfare, rising living costs, rising debt in consequence  – all contributory factors to a potential for another economic crash.

How Brexit plays out in this is anyone’s guess because loss of the single market will have a detrimental impact too creating the “perfect storm” of events. And Brexit Minister David Davis today alarmingly admitted (15/3/17) that the Govt has made no assessment of the impact of leaving the Single Market – you couldn’t make up this level of incompetence and complacency. The point is action needs to be taken, but the Tories don’t seem to have any long term plan that Labour can see in order to address it apart from people being force fed more of the same economic pills….let’s hope we’re wrong and we’re not in a position in 2020 of saying “We told you so”.

Of course, people can choose to believe stats or not. Research shows people tend to more readily believe actual true personal stories rather than stats, we all probably have stories to relay about local people we know having to work two or more jobs to make ends meet in a constant stream of changing up and down weekly work patterns amended at will by the employer. Or struggling to find work at all……

You won’t find either the truth about the stats or these personal stories in the media. Why?!


Our MP is constantly making a song and dance about how well the economy is doing and none so pointedly as when he’s referring to the reducing unemployment count in Wyre Forest which according to the official figures stands at 755.

However, the truth and the stats behind the figures reveal an altogether different story. What you’ll find is jobless figures based on a not altogether straightforward picture, a seemingly shrinking market of available workers (irrespective of migrant workers), bogus self-employment, skills shortage, a huge number of economically inactive people (including those in the count who might want work but can’t start on ‘x’ date being discounted from unemployment figures), and insecure work with rising living costs for people who debt fuel consumer spending making the state of the economy look better than it actually is.

Without prompt action and investment in infrastructure, education, training, housing, and more importantly a better protected workforce with decent secure jobs it will lead to another crash.

The people of Wyre Forest did not vote Brexit to be presented with an insecure, low wage, low corporate tax, bargain basement economy forged in austerity as the Tories seem to be advocating. The Tories last year attacked trade unions, and in terms of stemming this type of insecure work, your chances of being on a zero hour contract in a unionised workplace are dramatically reduced, halved in fact.

AND SO ON TO THE STATS (based on TUC, ONS, County Council & Bank of England data):

According to the TUC report, 28% of all new jobs in the West Midlands are insecure meaning low paid zero hour contracts, temporary or seasonal work. In Wyre Forest, it means of the official reduction in the claimant count of 1,745 since 2010, that 488 of those ‘new’ jobs are in insecure low paid zero hour type jobs. Or to put it another way, a total of 3,456 of employees in Wyre Forest out of a total employee count of 36,000 are in vulnerable work. Many probably have to do more than one job because 35% of this work is now part-time. Indeed, some 13,000 people in Wyre Forest work in retail, hotels, food and social care, which are industries notorious for part-time, poor pay, poor conditions, and insecure contracts. It may well be the real number of insecure workers is higher than the stats would have us believe.

Of the bulk of the official unemployed, the majority, some 570, are people in the prime of their working life, aged 24 to 64. Wyre Forest’s employment density has always lagged behind the national average by some 15 to 20%, and it is no different today at 0.63 (calculation is jobs filled divided by working age population and U.K. Wide is around 0.83). It peaked in Wyre Forest under the last Labour Government at 0.68 when those employed stood at 42,000 versus today’s figure of 36,000. So, contrary to Tory claims, the picture is not rosy and the jobs market is not at an all time high, certainly not in Wyre Forest at any rate and less people are employed here than ever.

To clarify further, the economically active numbers since 2010 (when Tories were elected) have dropped from 51,000 to 47,000 (this figure is different to the ’employed’ figure as an overall number for people in work because it includes the self employed). That’s a loss of 4,000 workers from the jobs market which is not necessarily explained away by either the 2,000 or so that have retired from the jobs market, or the the number of ‘new’ jobs created. If you therefore compare it to the job density figure it suggests there are in fact many more people unemployed than the official figures reveal and in a reducing working age population. The age stats also suggest a loss to the area of working age people under 40, so we may be losing younger people to better opportunities elsewhere. The total population in Wyre Forest has however risen, mainly in the 40-49 and over 60’s groups. That could be older people moving here to retire or upsize their accommodation from more expensive areas and already in decent jobs or in stable financial positions. Either way, we have an ageing population and reducing number of people working and tending to their needs and to pay taxes to keep our services going.

So something odd is going on in Wyre Forest and your MP doesn’t want you to know what it is because he realises, if he actually understands it, that the economy is based on a house of cards which the Tories have a vested interest in keeping going to keep your labour costs cheap to make the figures look good.

And what of the growth in self-employment in Wyre Forest as we are all entrepreneurs now aren’t we? Not quite, despite a staggering increase of 3,300 in the self employed up to 7,000 from 3,700 in 2010, many find themselves in bogus self-employment as part of Britain’s Über style gig economy. This is yet another way of massaging the employment figures. If all was well in the garden and people were earning loads of money and paying tax on it, the Tories would not have had to put up self-employed N.I. last week to raise tax revenues to reduce the deficit. A decision which caused them so much grief, they’ve now reversed it. Proof that austerity is failing and which has seen the national debt hit nearly £2trillion, and for what? We’ve nothing of substance to show for it.

The corporation tax reduction for the big elites has not worked its way through that’s for sure and in Wyre Forest where 89% of business are small, it never will either. Britain hands £93billion worth of subsidies, yes £93billion, to some of these elite companies to pay low wages and offer insecure employment, many of which pay no tax anyway, that’s them costing UK taxpayers £3500 per household on average. How much of a dent in the UK deficit would that make one wonders, mitigating any need for austerity. Don’t forget these same companies also had that £30billion tax giveaway too with corporation tax reductions. That’s the wealthy giving to the wealthy and everyone of us is paying for it.

It confirms we have a low wage, low skill economy and in Wyre Forest 29% of people have no qualifications. These are not highly paid, highly skilled self-employed tradesmen we are talking about here. The average income for people in Wyre Forest is £40 a week less than everywhere else in the West Midlands. That’s £2,000 a year less than our neighbours in Birmingham. You could say the Wyre Forest worker is being plundered of income to the tune of £5,500 per year in families with one person working. A bigger sum still if two or more in a household are working.

Across the region, some 22% of people are economically inactive, long term sick – modern life and work is not a healthy balance it seems. No wonder allied to austerity the NHS is creaking at the seems. In Wyre Forest, an eye watering 13,000 fall into this category. Of those, 5,700 are desperate for work, but can’t get it and find themselves on some sort of benefit not recorded in the unemployment stats. That’s because they may be disabled for instance, yet Mark Garnier and his Party have targeted them for cuts, but again he doesn’t seem to understand their angst when they visit his surgery as their benefits (PIP ex DLA) are slashed, he calls it a “statistical anomaly”. Well, a banker would wouldn’t he, figures seem to elude them, maybe the Banking crash was also a statistical anomaly? In real terms, if you add this group looking for work to the calculated model of jobless (a statisticians equation claimed to be more precise on unemployment figures) it adds up to some 7,600 people.

Bingo, 7,600 there you have it, the real Wyre Forest jobless figure which would explain why wages are still stagnating in a supply and demand job market with over supply in the system. It’s ‘Why’ employers can get away with insecure employment, hire and fire, and why consumer spending is propped up by growing debt in unsecured lending rising at 10% per year because people can’t make ends meet so borrow their way out of it. A house of cards on the edge of collapse which an interest rate rise would blow over. It’s also why the Bank of England won’t raise interest rates in preference to turning the credit tap off, and why they have used QE to put money in the economy. Money that would have been better used on infrastructure, education, housing, and jobs, rather than giving investors a shares bonus and potentially creating yet more borrowing. And adding to the national debt of course……£60billion more since the Brexit referendum in fact to keep a wobbling economy afloat, but yet the Brexit vote has had no effect on the economy we are told.

If only we invested in education, training, and proper secure regulated work, whilst offering affordable housing to give our local people a future; then we’d find as our skills and creative talents are harnessed, we’d all be better off in Wyre Forest and our wages and the economy would prosper. Sadly, none of this is on offer from the Tories, and it will take a change of Government to achieve that in order to invest in our future, and our infrastructure, rather than the politics of division and austerity failure as the Tories race their bus into a hard Brexit in a final attempt to crash the economy and likely cut us off from the single market in consequence.

One final thing, when it comes to borrowing and putting the nation in debt, the Tories have it by a country mile over Labour whether with or without a financial crisis in play, by a third more in fact. (data: House of Commons Library/Bank of England research by Prof Richard Murphy University of London).

Stephen Brown
Wyre Forest Labour Party

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