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Alex questions Government unemployment figures

Hundreds of people have gone missing from the Government statistics detailing people claiming Jobseekers Allowance in Stockton – and it could be hundreds of thousands across the country.

The Government’s unemployment figures are being presented in a way that conceals an alarming truth, according to Stockton North Labour MP Alex Cunningham, who said it is time the Tory-led Coalition came clean and was fully transparent about what has happened to the people who have been erased from the records.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, released last week, show that the headline rate of unemployment remained unchanged across the UK.  However, despite the small improvement announced for the region, unemployment remains higher in the North East than anywhere else in the UK, and the Stockton North MP highlighted this has been the case in every quarter since April-June 2011.

Speaking in the House of Commons in response to the Chancellor’s Budget, Alex said:  “Even with the small improvements … unemployment in the region remains some two percentage points above the national figure – and is seventy per cent higher than in the South East and South West.

“It will come as no surprise, then, that the Claimant Count in the North East is also the highest in the country.  And in my own Stockton North constituency, the numbers are higher still.  The 4.1 per cent claiming support related to unemployment is over three times higher than the rate in the South East, and almost seven times higher than in the Chancellor’s seat in Tatton.”

The Labour MP was then quick to question whether recent falls in the Claimant Count represent an honest reflection of the numbers of people who have ceased to claim Jobseekers Allowance, with the scandal of benefit sanctions regularly highlighted by local media and statistics revealing what is really happening.

Figures from the House of Commons library show that, of those who have ceased claiming JSA in Stockton North, just over one-third did so because they had found work.  Conversely, over half were recorded as doing so for “other reasons” while not a single person had done so as a result of upping their hours to over 16 per week.

Commenting after the first day of Budget debates, Alex said:  “The Tory-led Government is very keen to paint a picture of fewer people relying on welfare support from the state.  However, the Minister today confirmed that she was unable to account for the thousands of people who have seemingly vanished from Jobseekers Allowance lists across the North East.

“This showcases the extent to which the Government is using smoke and mirrors to hide the failings of flagstone policies and present a favourable impression in the run up to a crucial election.  But with close to a million people relying on food banks, the weaknesses of the welfare state are painfully clear.

“I have today tabled Parliamentary Questions to the Secretary of State in an effort to shed some light on this matter before Parliament dissolves and reveal the true extent of the problems we face as a country.

“It is no good claiming success for a job creation programme when most people no longer claiming assistance haven’t started work.  I hope we can get to the bottom on this mystery.”