Rival Manchester councillors took to Twitter last week - during a council meeting - to battle it out in a row over youth unemployment.
At last week's meeting, a Labour motion was passed calling on the coalition government to reinstate the Future Jobs Fund and the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA).
The motion stated that over a million young people are unemployed and one in five 16-24 year olds are looking for a job, figures Chorlton-cum-Hardy Councillor Matt Strong described as shocking.
“The Future Jobs Fund was one of the first things the government cut claiming it was a waste of money and now, 18 months later, they’ve realised something has to be done,” said Councillor Strong.
He said the Youth Contract, announced by Nick Clegg last month, is a poor alternative as the work placements it provides are mainly within the private sector so it is far more difficult to ascertain how well it is working.
“I think it is very important to understand how difficult it is for young people to get into employment,” said Councillor Strong. “One hundred thousand people were helped each year by the Future Jobs Fund and were able to find work.”
However, Lib Dem councillor for Gorton North, Jackie Pearcey, disagrees and thinks the Future Jobs Fund was problematic, however well intentioned.
Councillor Pearcey said: “There was too much bureaucracy surrounding the Future Jobs Fund and the state was paying too much for every job.
She added that half of the people would finish exactly where they started and return to benefits once their Future Jobs Fund placement had finished.
Despite this, there are many people in Manchester who have found jobs through the Future Jobs Fund, such as Dan Jones, 23, who is now a marketing officer for Chorlton Theatre and Arts Centre.
Dan said: “It’s such a shame that the Future Jobs Fund doesn’t exist anymore because I met so many talented people through it. I was unemployed for quite a long time and the scheme really helped me.”
Councillor Pearcey believes the money saved from cutting the Future Jobs Fund is better spent on the young apprenticeship programme.
“Apprenticeships provide people who are less academic with a job they can do,” said Councillor Pearcey. “Especially those kids who are taking level one courses and are being taught basic literacy levels.”
When asked what provisions are being made for graduates who are finding it equally difficult to find employment, Councillor Pearcey replied: “Graduates are the ones who did well at school and found learning came easily to them.
“There are some people who go to school every day and it is miserable for them and it’s time they were given some help. We want to help everyone, but we can only do our best to help as many people as possible.”
The council was also split over EMA, Kevin Peel, Labour councillor for Manchester City Centre, posted on Twitter from the meeting that the Lib Dems were lying over plans to bring back EMA.
Councillor Pearcey said that while the Lib Dems do not intend to reinstate EMA, Labour had already planned to do so when education became compulsory up to the age of 18.
“Labour had expanded EMA to the point where it was ridiculous,” she said. “We’ve not scrapped EMA completely, but we’ve targeted those closer to the 10% who actually need it and they’re going to get more.”
Councillor Strong disagreed, citing the Association of Colleges reports that there has been a 13% drop in enrolment on level one college courses since the abolition of EMA.
“In terms of in Manchester, the figures quite clearly show that people on EMA had better attendance and achieved better results,” said Councillor Strong.
“People on EMA are often from quite dysfunctional families, obviously not in all cases but in some and EMA really helped keep these people in education, so I think cutting it is really harsh.”
Further details of the motion can be found at: http://www.manchester.gov.uk/egov_downloads/7_December_2011_summons.pdf