Support for young unemployed is vacuous

The Observer reported that the support and advice for the young unemployed is not what was originally supposed. It seems that regular mentoring essentially comes down to a weekly text.

The £1bn scheme that has been promoted by Nick Clegg, as a concerted effort to solve the worklessness crisis for18- to 24-year-olds by offering them more time with advisers. But documents instructing job centres on their additional responsibilities reveal that the weekly contact promised under the scheme could merely consist of weekly text messages or emails.

Continue reading

A Sneyd Green Mum writes

The Sentinel carried a poignant letter recently from a Sneyd Green Mum whose 45 year old son had been out of work for 4 years and despite hundreds of job application remained unemployed. He had volunteered for 15 weeks within a Co-operative Store in the City. His mother felt that such a comparatively young man had been tossed onto a scrap heap

This heart felt cry puts into plain words the central difficulty that the unemployed face in trying to get into work in Stoke-on-Trent. The jobs are not out there. Last week the Sentinel advertised 378 jobs in an area where there are 11,000 unemployed. Continue reading

Cost of Stoke-on-Trent City Council recruitment

Yesterday I wrote about how Stoke-on-Trent City Council have advertised 21 jobs with the specialist HR & recruitment company Penna and not one of the candidates found was offered the position they had applied for.

Today I am going to write about the literally eye-watering cost of these failed recruitment drives.

According to figures found in the City Councils transparency reports, Penna were paid £126,009.14 in 2011* and had just 21 jobs placed with them, that is £6000 per vacancy.

The councils spending data is particularly poor so it is not possible to say exactly how the money is broken down by role but of the £126,000

  • £45,761.60 Advertising
  • £7709.20 Interviews
  • £15,237.34 Expenses
  • £20624.54 Miscellaneous expenses
  • £36676.46 Printing, Works, Rechargeable Works, Repairs alterations, Section 106 & equipment and furniture

That is £126,000 of your money that could be used to keep a library open, help keep a swimming pool open or any number of services that are listed for closure in the Budget book.

The issue isn’t with Penna, who are well respected in their sector, but more with the City Council. If Stoke-on-Trent City Council are rejecting everyone of the 82 candidates that have been selected by Penna to go forward to interview then the person profile, job spec and brief must be wrong.

* figures are for only 10 months as the August transparency report is missing and December has not yet been published so the true figure could be around £150,000.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Recruitment

Recruiting in Stoke-on-Trent isn’t as easy as you would have thought.

According to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act, in 2011, Stoke-on-Trent City Council advertised 21 positions with Penna, the London based HR company behind the Leaders For Stoke website.

Many readers will be aware of the Leaders For Stoke website, the specialist recruitment website run by Penna, which is used to attract the best of the best to become Leaders For Stoke.

Out of the 21 positions, two, Chief Executive of CoRE & Director – Public Health were placed on behalf of partner organisations and no further information is held as to the number of applicants or interviews. Stoke-on-Trent City Council have no details of how many applications Penna received or how many people were interviewed for a further4 of their advertised roles.

The remaining 15 positions which the City Council did have information on included such specialist roles as an Accountant, Registration Officer and a JCB driver.

These advertised roles attracted a total of 270 applications, of which 82 were selected for interview and not one of the candidates who went through what we can only imagine is quite a tough pre-selection process were successful at the interview stage and offered the position they had applied for.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council roles advertised though Penna in 2011

  • Team Manager – Financial And Strategy Reporting*
  • Team Manager – Risk and Insurance
  • Accountant
  • Team Manager – Development Management
  • Director – Business Services*
  • BSF Senior Client Manager
  • Commercial Fleet Manager**
  • Finance and Commercial Manager*
  • Cemetery Operative/ JCB Driver
  • Registration Officer
  • Electrical Engineer*
  • Strategic Manager – Comnmercial Services*
  • Team Manager – Strategy and Development
  • BSF Senior Client Project Manager
  • Commercial Fleet Manager***

Although Stoke-on-Trent City Council used Pena to find candidates for all of these roles, the 8 shown in bold above were filled by candidates found from sources other than Penna.

4 roles * did not have any one appointed
1 role ** appears to have been filled but the successful applicant is no longer in that role

The Commercial Fleet Managers *** role had 9 applicants after being advertised in May, but according to the information supplied, it isn’t yet known how many of the 9 made it to the interview stage and the role is apparently still vacant.

The role of Chief Executive of CoRE was also filled by an applicant who did not come from Penna.

In these times of unprecedented cuts and £35m needing to be cut from the city budget the question has to be asked, are we getting value for money when we advertise council roles in this way?

Stoke-on-Trent bids for Green Investment Bank

Stoke-on-Trent’s bid to host the Green Investment Bank (GIB) has been officially recognised by the government. The battle to secure the bank heated up as Vince Cable published criteria to determine where it should be based.

Stoke-on-Trent is the only West Midlands location which has indicated its interest in hosting the bank.

The Government sees the GIB as a catalyst for the UK’s transition to a green economy. The £3 billion it has set aside for it, will it says attract a further £15 billion from the private sector. However, the GIB will not have any borrowing powers until at least 2015, which have led to concerns within the green business community that will not be able to accelerate the transition to a green economy effectively enough.

The GIB’s establishment has now moved a step closer as business secretary Cable published the trio of criteria for deciding where it will be based and its first priorities for the first four years.

A successful location must be able to recruit and retain the specialist staff needed to run the organisation; enable the GIB to work closely with other parties involved in deals as well as other investment bodies and green technology providers and be in a location that provides good value for money.

Twenty-two locations across the UK have registered their interest in hosting the GIB.

I noticed that some of the locations are putting up some strong business case such as Edinburgh, Leeds and Newcastle. As far as I can see no such publicity campaign is being launched by Stoke. It would be a great pity if something that can deliver high quality, well paid jobs in the local economy is not being pushed by the City Council.

Vince Cable said

There is a great opportunity for British businesses to lead the transition to a green economy and stake a claim on a sector that has massive potential for growth.

I’m pleased to see that more than 20 places recognise the impact the Green Investment Bank could make, and are expressing an interest in being its home.

I want to set up the Bank as soon as possible, so it can start accelerating investments in these key sectors and help British companies take advantage of these opportunities. Setting out the priorities for the Bank and establishing UK Green Investments for April 2012 are a major step forward.

There will be a decision in March

No Local Jobs Bonanza In Stoke-on-Trent

Some weeks ago the Sentinel published an article full of optimism for the
wave of much needed jobs that are to hit the North Staffs economy. This
immediately heartened me. As people are aware the local economy has been
badly hit in recent years and currently they are many thousands of people
without work. In Stoke there are over 8,000 people on the dole.

I therefore looked the jobs section of the Sentinel with interest. But if
there is a jobs bonanza there is little evidence from the most recent jobs

I realise that not all local jobs will be advertised in the paper. A number
of companies will use their own websites. However of the 218 vacancies I
would say that about half are short term or part time. In the 7 pages there
were also organisations advertising courses and apprenticeships as well as
volunteering opportunities. A number of agencies such as Forrest, Gap and
Proactive also advertised. On a more positive note potbanks and engineering
companies advertised although one ceramic company was based in Lancashire.

The point of this exercise was to confirm a thought that I have had about job
creation which is confirmed in the national data. Many of the jobs that are
replacing the long term and full time jobs are neither. A recent interview on
the news of a man who had lost his job and had 3 temporary jobs to replace
the permanent one lost is a graphic personal account of the problem. Pay is
another matter with only minimum wage only on offer.

This is no way to build a vibrant economy or to provide work that is
sustainable. What is the point of offering work to unemployed people that
might only last a month?

One way out of this predicament is by developing self-employment as an option
but of course the long-term unemployed are likely to have access to capital
to develop ideas. The Government hopes to encourage 40,000 people to begin
the path towards self-employment but these issues need to be addressed

Job Cuts At University Hospital North Staffordshire

The Guardian and the TUC are reporting this morning that 50,000 jobs are to be cut in the NHS over the next few years although the NHS is supposed to be protected from public sector cuts.

According to information gained from FOI requests University Hospital North Staffordshire is looking to reduce staff by over 1300 or almost 23% in the next 5 years.

The positions under threat over the next 5 years are:

  • 2010/11
    • reductions not clear. Figures are subject to review.
  • 2011/12:
    • Medical & Dental – 43.28;
    • Nursing & Midwifery – 190.06;
    • Other Clinical – 38.74;
    • Other – 100.48.
  • 2012/13:
    • Medical & Dental – 49.96;
    • Nursing & Midwifery – 219.42;
    • Other Clinical – 44.4;
    • Other – 115.99.
  • 2013/14:
    • Medical & Dental – 32.6;
    • Nursing & Midwifery – 143.17;
    • Other Clinical – 29.46;
    • Other – 75.69.
  • 2014/15:
    • Medical & Dental – 30.83;
    • Nursing & Midwifery – 135.4;
    • Other Clinical – 27.6;
    • Other – 71.58.

Should the NHS & UNHS be protected from the cuts? What affect with this have on people in Stoke-on-Trent who have a lower life expectancy that the rest of the UK

Figures are for Whole Time Equivalents.

Local Government Jobs To Be Published In Standard Open Format

Eric Pickles MP, Local Government Secretary is proposing that all local government vacancies are published on-line in a standard open data format.

Speaking at the Local Government Association conference in Bournemouth yesterday, Mr Pickles said, ‘The new Government will be working with local government not only to put online information on spending, tenders and contracts over £500, but also to publish job vacancies online, in an open and standardised format, for anyone to use, re-publish and ‘mash up’ without charge. There will be no public sector monopoly – the jobs data can be used by anyone, from commercial recruitment, newspapers to pressure groups.’

Stoke-on-Trent City Council were recently slated in the press for spending £300,000 with a recruitment agency to recruit 7 managers, one of which, Julian Reed, was already employed by the City Council.

Mr Pickles said, ‘This will not end advertising in the media; local newspapers in particular will remain an important source to advertise jobs to those who may be ‘digital excluded’ and not have access to the internet. But over time, putting job adverts online will drive down advertising costs, make it easier to compare pay ranges within and across councils, and show local people where their council tax goes.’

Mr Pickles also wants to put and end to council ‘non jobs’ and urge greater vigilance over how every taxpayer pound is spent.

He said at the conference, ‘Putting jobs online not only shows local people where their money is going. It will mean they can question whether those jobs are really needed at all. What does an audience development officer do? Is a ‘cheerleading development officer’ what taxpayers want? How many transformation officers and business development directors does one council need?’

He continued, ‘One council was even advertising for someone to spin for their bins last week. I wonder whether their residents actually want a ‘communications waste strategy officer.’ Or whether they’d prefer a few more bin men.’

What council ‘non jobs’ have you seen advertised locally?

17 musings on a project that delivers cheap energy, jobs, social cohesion and apple pie for Stoke residents

1. Stoke has a problem with areas suffering from poverty, high levels of deprivation and unemployment. A recent report in a local paper indicated that over 1 in 5 of local residents are on benefits.

2. Climate Change is one of the most important policy questions driving government action. All political parties are signed up to the agenda and targets to reduce carbon emissions.

3. Fuel poverty is a major issue in the area. National data indicates that over 25,000 people die each year from cold related illness a far higher proportion than other northern countries such as Canada or Norway. A national figure of 25,000 extrapolated down means that around 180-220 people day from cold related illness in the City each year.

4. The drive to create jobs from opportunities offered by this agenda is a growing movement in this country and elsewhere supported by a coalition of interests.

5. One area where a great deal of energy could be saved is adequately insulating homes and commercial practices. It has been calculated that something like 25% of energy is lost this way. A number of projects around the world such as Wisconsin Energy Efficiency is designed to stimulate a large scale building retrofit programme and create green skills training opportunity and jobs for local people.

6. Another community based project in South London is aiming to get people to produce and use energy sustainable, whatever their income.

7. There is an interest in one area of Stoke in the Burslem and Middleport area how local residents might become more involved in a concept that might provide local jobs and cut fuel bills for local people as well as fighting climate change.

8. The City Council is also committed to this agenda and that there is evidence that other communities would benefit from an approach that meets some of the challenges around poverty and worklessness outlined above. However I think that there ought to be a consciousness raising event or events to raise potential for this throughout the City

9. The City also has been successful in obtaining funding for a national retrofitting centre based at a former potbank where 400 local people will receive training in the areas of work outlined above.

10. There is also the opportunity to create energy through a variety of sources. One possibility is the approach taken by Birmingham by the installation of photovoltaic solar panels, insulation and modern fuel-efficient boilers in the city. The Council offers local residents and businesses grants and low cost loans to install insulation and panels and in return the Council collects the feed in tariff. The money raised is spent on more panels making the scheme self funding.

11. Another scheme in New Mills in Derbyshire harnesses the power of the River Goyt to turn a generator sunk in the riverbed to generate energy, which is used to power local homes and businesses. Extra energy generated is fed into the national grid and a dividend paid to local residents who buy into the project through a share issue scheme.

12. There is also potential for using the derelict land in the City to grow biomass crops. In a brief conversation with Prof John Dover at a recent regeneration lecture he indicated that there was land available in the City that a pioneer biomass-growing scheme could work depending on the chain of supply. However if biomass crops could be used to generate power locally this further could play a role in the creation of local jobs that fitted this agenda.

13. The national agenda of the new government also fits in with this agenda. This suggestion fits into the Big Society agenda and the localism of both Conservative and Liberal Democrats philosophies. There is also interest in the creation of a Green Investment Bank details will emerge later in the year.

14. However I am interested in the possibility of developing a few community benefiting structures such as a Community Interest Company (CIC) These are limited by shares or guarantee and are set up to benefit the local community. A principle of the CIC is an asset lock, which ensures that the assets remain in the community

15. Alternative as in the New Mills scheme which is funded by an Industrial Provident Scheme. For some projects the IPS has become the vehicle of choice. There is over 8,000 IPS in the country with over 10,000,000 members. The growing use of in sustainable energy developments has demonstrated the potential for raising significant capital for the community and it can offer significant return. An IPS can be run as a co-operative for the benefit of its community with profits ploughed back into the community. IPS can issue community share at a low cost by structuring them to avoid red tape of a full public prospectus. Giving locals a stake in the organisations such as New Mills can drive the project forward increase support for planning organisation lead to a feeling of community empowerment and raise awareness of the importance of renewable energy in addition to generating power and jobs.

16. There is some work to be done here

17. And call the organisation Potteries Power

And a possible job description to pull this together

Potteries Power aims to provide local solutions to fuel poverty and climate change, including energy audits, support and advice as well as enabling increased uptake of the various schemes currently on offer such as cavity and loft insulation, draught proofing, new double glazing, heating controls and replacement boiler systems and PV systems

The Energy Co-ordinator will develop and lead this carbon and energy saving project, organising events, home visits and giving professional energy advice. You will also be responsible for recruiting, managing, and supporting up to 10 part time Energy Champions who will help to deliver this project within their own local areas.

It is envisaged that the Energy Champions will be local people who have good community links, an interest in energy and carbon saving, and a passion for making a difference, but may not have any specific knowledge or experience in energy saving. After suitable training, these Champions will be the “Ëœon the ground’ contact for their local communities, and will be carrying out initial surveys, providing advice and motivating their communities.

Key duties and responsibilities

1 Develop and Lead the Potteries Power team
ï‚· Recruit, support and promote local energy champions in communities and provide and promote training for groups of volunteers.
ï‚· The Coordinator will start a series of public awareness meetings, using these to recruit 10 part time community based Energy Champions.
ï‚· The local Energy Champions will be trained by the Energy Co – ordinator, but each will also be trained to City and Guilds 6176 Energy Awareness.
2 Publicity and Marketing
ï‚· Deliver presentations, work – shops and lectures on energy issues to householders, businesses and other interested parties.
ï‚· Run regular local energy awareness meetings in community halls.
ï‚· Develop and maintain the potteries power website in conjunction with a specialist.
ï‚· Further develop the Potteries Power branding and detailed publicity material.
ï‚· Publicise and promote the project and related energy efficiency / renewable energy projects using the local media.
ï‚· Help to establish and support local information points and maintain an overview of the information network.

3 Work with the Community Energy Network to:
ï‚· Direct clients to services.
ï‚· Collate information on all householder grant funding available.
ï‚· Liase with local / national installers (insulation, glazing, heating controls, plumbing etc).
ï‚· Start Home Energy Checks.
Manage referrals and feedback data.
ï‚· Prepare best practice case studies and disseminate to households, organisations and businesses.
4 Home Energy Checks, Advice and Implementation
ï‚· Plan implementation of house by house visits.
ï‚· Select and acquire demonstration equipment (insulation samples, boiler controls etc.)
ï‚· Select and acquire smart meters.
ï‚· Conduct energy audits for houses / businesses / community buildings, where required.
ï‚· Provide follow – up information, support and advice for contacts made initially by local energy volunteers (households, community groups and small businesses) where required.
ï‚· Liase with Stoke Council to ensure householders (particularly those in fuel poverty) are claiming all their benefit entitlements.
ï‚· Distribution and training in use of smart meters.

5 Assist householders to liase with tradesmen for the installation of energy saving measures locally identified such as:
ï‚· Cavity wall and loft insulation.
ï‚· Draught proofing of windows and doors.
ï‚· Double or secondary glazing.
ï‚· Reflective film behind radiators on outside walls.
ï‚· Set up existing heating controls for optimum comfort conditions and minimum energy use.
ï‚· Upgrading heating controls – especially the retrofit installation of weather compensating ” optimum start ” 7 day heating programmer and thermostats. (especially where additional funding is available)
ï‚· Where appropriate, work with the on specification of renewable systems such as wood stoves, biomass boilers, solar thermal & PV systems.

6 Develop and maintain local contacts
ï‚· Establish and maintain a database of advice contacts and energy saving activities in the local area
ï‚· Develop connections with energy awareness campaigns, their fuel poverty action , and other organisations in such as VAST
ï‚· Identify and contact all similar local initiatives within and adjacent to the local area and liase with them as appropriate.

7 Administration
ï‚· Create and maintain a database of properties surveyed, action taken and carbon savings achieved.
ï‚· Produce progress reports for the management group, Climate Challenge Fund and project partners.
ï‚· Keep financial records of the project, and claim grant money
ï‚· Administrative tasks relevant to the post
ï‚· Carry out relevant tasks as requested by the management group
ï‚· Build on, and maintain, lists of installers and develop contacts

Tory Poster Campaign “Lets Cut Benefits”

I posted the below on the Guardian site following the report of one of the latest Tory Election Posters on cutting benefite for those who refuse to work. My experience from last year rather proves that the problem is more complex then people seem to think In the context of a place like North Staffordshire a range of long term, secure well paid jobs do not exist. For many remaining on benefits and there are now about 24% of the population is the safest option. In my experiences the real problems occur when you try to break out of your predicament

“I worked for a private training company based on Merseyside between 2006-7. I can confirm some of the comments made about A4E. A number of computers at the centre did not work although saying that there were a number of the young people who were unrealistic and lacked drive. The older ones were better motivated.

I should add that I heard Blunkett on Radio 4 a few months ago lambasting people who lie in bed when others are out working early. Blunkett receives a paid directorship from A4E. S its in his interest to point out this problem.

I was out of work myself from March to November last year. I found the Job Centre I attended in Stoke chaotic. Many of the people attending were people who had worked for years and were unused to how to go about the system. Staff at the Job Centre were very variable and many simply ignorant of procedures- I do some voluntary work for the CAB. In one example I was speaking to one claimant who was told to go to a job interview for a warehouse job. He turned up- the interview required a 30 mile round trip- to discover that the warehouse on a new site had not even been built.

I took an exam invigilator job for 4 weeks in may/June to discover that my JSA was stopped instantly even though it took weeks before I was paid by Staffordshire. Sometimes being honest with the system can be counter productive. It took 11 phone calls over 4 days before they they re-instated contributionary JSA.

Now it is true that there are people who don’t sem to want to work. In my experience they are in a minority. Life on JSA is not an easy one on £64 a week, how could it be! But people make choices and the marginal tax rates from moving into work are extremely high especially when council tax and housing benefit is concerned and the local Council is rather wolfish in chasing you when you get into Council Tax arrears as my experience in the CAB again proves.

In November I took a job on the tills at the local supermarket. Its part time 14.25 hours a week. I am 55 and finding a job has been very hard. I made about 80 applications before getting this. Many of the jobs that are advertised are temporary or part time and I guess the difference between this recession and the last two in the 80s and the 90s was that in this area of North Staffs there were jobs that still existed in textilles or the potteries, not anymore. I checked out where the nearest pottery worker job and it was in Rugby about 80 miles away.

I am hoping that my self employment options also work out I do a history/ghost walk in Leek where I live- shriek in leek – as well as family history/ local resarch to go alongside the supermarket work.

I am a graduate and I have post graduate qualifications.

To recap, Its not easy in my experience in getting back to work and I think that the majority of people approach the crisis of being unemployed in the hope that their predicament is a temporary one and work hard in changing the situation. However the Job centre in Hanley I went to cannot cope with the numbers and lack the know all to help too many are inexperienced staff. There are people who work the system, but I guess they make economic decisions especially when the tapering effect of benefit withdrawl is taken into account- not everyone can access WTC. On the dole at least you know that you get the benefit on a certain date and time and you can budget accordingly.

And finally vacancies which have dried up from the numbers of 18 months ago. The local paper- as an indicator- used to boast that they advertised 700 jobs a week now that number in North Staffs is probably down to 150 and a number of them are voluntary.

The solution well I favour the Basic Income approach perhaps if you scrap the present system to provide a liveable income and perhaps people such as my exam invigilator experience would be willing to try short term pieces of work”