Malcolm highlights the damaging effects of unemployment on people
Debate on Employment Service (Edinburgh) Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab):
One of my favourite quotes from the economist Keynes is:

“Take care of employment and the budget will take care of itself.”

That is an oversimplification, but it is a lesson that could be well learned by the United Kingdom Government and the Scottish Government. However, even more important than the effect of unemployment on the budget deficit is its effect on unemployed people.

The combination of the effect of unemployment on individuals and its effect on the wider economy should mean that employment and job creation are at the heart of our concerns here in the Scottish Parliament, as they ought to be in the Westminster Parliament.

That is of particular concern to Edinburgh MSPs. Not only is youth unemployment rising in the city, but we have the highest rate of unemployment among school leavers anywhere in Scotland. Against that background, we were all astonished to hear about the enormous cut to employability funding that the Scottish Government provides to the city of Edinburgh, which was announced by the Government just before Christmas, on 23 December. That cut amounted to 43 per cent of the employability funding for the city.

I heard about it soon afterwards. Many people wrote about it, although I think that I was the first to write to the Minister for Housing and Communities, in early January. My reply from Alex Neil was negative. However, there have been many twists and turns since then. Margaret Smith asked John Swinney a question on the matter during the budget debate last month, and the cabinet secretary’s response raised our hopes. I hope that that is followed up by an announcement from the minister today. Sarah Boyack asked a different minister about it, and Angela Constance’s argument was that it was a matter of short-term funding. In case that argument is repeated by the Minister for Housing and Communities today, I point out that the money can be traced back 20 years in Edinburgh. To say that money is being allocated for the next two or three years is absolutely routine for all Government grants - it does not mean that it is short-term funding.

The effect of the cut is on individual projects, and it is also on the wider joined up for jobs strategy, which has been widely admired by people from across Scotland. Many projects are affected in my constituency. The City of Edinburgh Council has taken some action to cushion the effect of the 43 per cent cut that has been announced, but the majority of that cushioning amounts to the use of reserves and underspends. Therefore, it will cushion the blow for only one year, unless further central Government action is taken.

The city council produced a report on the matter for its meeting on 10 February, and projects were put into five categories. Only the first category was absolutely secure as regards funding for the future. Even the magnificent North Edinburgh Childcare in my constituency - the best child care centre in Scotland - was placed in priority 2. In priority 4 - which means that it has no hope of being funded in the future unless there is extra funding - was Barnardo’s NETworks, which works with young people in the Pilton-Granton area of my constituency. In priority 5, which has even less hope of future funding, was the training that is provided in the Out of the Blue cafe in Leith, as well as the magnificent training opportunities in Lothian programme, which is run by the Port of Leith Housing Association to provide construction apprenticeships. All the people who go through that programme get into work.

No funding at all is given to the North Edinburgh News, the North Edinburgh Trust or to Women Onto Work, which is based in Leith. According to the council’s report, a higher proportion of Women Onto Work’s clients move on to positive outcomes than do clients with other projects.

Those are the consequences that face such projects this year, and which will face them even more in subsequent years if no action is taken.

Some of us were given a presentation within the last hour by people who have been lobbying the Parliament on this subject. A short video was produced, part of which showed comments that people have posted online in relation to the announced funding cut. Sarah Boyack has already given one of the quotes, but it is worth repeating:

“Save the jobs that save jobs!”

Two others also struck me: “Why target the less privileged again?” and “another blow to the young people of Edinburgh.”

We all recognise that we have difficult budget choices to make, and we must all participate in debates and discussions about where budgets should be cut, but I hope that we can all agree that young unemployed people - and indeed other unemployed people, as it is not just young people who are affected - are not the groups to target.

I say emphatically that the proposed cut is not the choice that we should be making. I hope that the minister will reconsider the matter and will give a better answer in his speech today than he gave in his letter to me in January.

Motion S3M-7806 in the name of Sarah Boyack
That the Parliament notes with surprise and concern

the unexpected decision by the Minister for Housing and Communities to cut support for highly-regarded specialist programmes, valued this year at £2.238 million, to the Capital City Partnership; understands that this support assists 3,500 unemployed people per year;
notes that this cut will hit what it sees as the most disadvantaged communities in the city, including unemployed school-leavers and priority groups such as people recovering from addiction and homeless people;
notes also that it will impact on the Joined Up For Jobs strategy, which, it considers, has a strong record of partner agencies working together for maximum effectiveness; believes that Edinburgh is the only city in Scotland to have suffered such a cut and that there is no justification for singling out one city for this unfair treatment;
would welcome, particularly at a time of recession, responsive local services for the unemployed being sustained, and believes that this funding should continue.
March 9th 2011 (13.34-13.39)