George Osborne’s great claims that the UK is on the road to jobs recovery has already been attacked for producing a mass of new low paid jobs, zero rated contracts and a boom in part-time working.
A closer analysis recently provided by the House of Commons library breaking down unemployment by constituency reveals a rather different disturbing and divided picture. And it officially shows the current claimant count is being massaged by Iain Duncan Smith, the works and pensions secretary, to underestimate the number of dole claimants on benefit.
As I report in Tribune magazine the figures reveal huge differences in the claimant rate between constituencies with up to 25 times more people on the dole in the worst parliamentary seats than the best. It shows that the “recovery” is by no means universal despite the creation of hundreds of thousands of low-paid jobs.
The worst place in the United Kingdom is undoubtedly the Foyle constituency of Mark Durkan, the SDLP MP. Here there are more than 6,600 on benefit representing 13.2 per cent of the population.
The recovery has by passed Foyle – with a drop of just over 5 per cent in claimants in the last year – compared to an average drop of 30 per cent in the UK and more than 45 per cent in Epsom and Ewell, the Surrey seat of Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary.
The best place in the UK is still fuelled by the Scottish oil boom – the West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine constituency of Liberal Democrat MP, Sir Robert Smith – with just 0.4 per cent on benefit – 221 people claiming benefit with only 30 unemployed for more than a year.
Other unemployment blackspots are Birmingham, Ladywood and Hodge Hill, all over 11 per cent and falling at a lower rate – some 20 per cent -than the national average. There is a similar picture in Belfast North and West;Bradford East and West, Middlesbrough and Birmingham, Perry Barr.
But there are areas where unemployment claims have disappeared. Among those with benefit claims of 0.7 per cent and less are Stratford-on-Avon, Henley-on-Thames, Mid Sussex, North Dorset, Kenilworth and Southam and North East Hampshire.
But there is also a disturbing picture that has gone unnoticed because of the debacle by works and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, in launching universal credit. At the moment it covers about 0.3 per cent of the population.
The Commons library reveals that currently statistics are not being collected from people on universal credit to find out whether they are in work or unemployed when they claim the benefit.
As it says : “Some new jobseekers are claiming Universal Credit rather than Jobseeker’s Allowance since the commencement of the Universal Credit pathfinder on 29 April 2013. These jobseekers are not included in the claimant count. ”
“…As a result, the claimant count will understate the total number of jobseekers in the constituencies affected.
ONS (Office for National Statistics) intends to include jobseeker Universal Credit claims within the claimant count statistics “as soon as possible”.”
However the ONS website says : “No timetable is currently available as to when this will occur.”
This affects claimants at 40 jobcentres. The worst example is the Oldham West and Royton seat of Labour MP Michael Meacher where 1240 people are on universal credit.
The number of JSA claimants in his constituency is 1530, down 51 per cent over the last year but if the figures do not include those on universal credit instead – they are bound to be an underestimate of the real number of claimants on the dole.
A similar situation exists in Wigan, the seat of Lisa Nandy, where 1020 people are claiming Universal Credit and is recording a 46 per cent drop in the number of people claiming JSA over a year.
Now it would be remarkable if Wigan and Oldham could post bigger cuts in dole claimants than Epsom and Ewell in Surrey. It is obviously not true.
So I think Mr Osborne better be very careful if he starts talking up the big drop among the unemployed in the North before the next general election based on these massaged statistics. If he does he will be telling the electorate at best only a partial truth and at worst lying through his teeth.