Pre-Budget Report must tackle graduate unemployment and skills funding

Next week’s Pre-Budget Report must tackle graduate unemployment, clarify skills funding and ensure better public sector workforce management ahead of major spending cuts, employers’ bodies have demanded.

Employment experts at think-tank the Work Foundation and business groups the CBI and EEF have outlined their wish lists for government spending ahead of the Pre-Budget Report, expected next Wednesday (9 December) to outline significant budget cuts.

The Work Foundation has asked the government to revise the jobs guarantee scheme, announced in April’s Budget, which plans to offer a job or “meaningful work-related activity” to all long-term unemployed people aged between 18 and 25.

The body said the scheme, funded by the £1.1bn Future Jobs Fund, must ensure individuals are offered extra training and six-monthly reviews to stand any chance of getting a real job.

David Coats, associate director of the Work Foundation, said: “Revising the Job Guarantee will improve the effectiveness of the programme, focus resources on the young people most in need of support, and encourage employers to become active partners in the initiative.”

In its submission to the Pre-Budget Report, Coats also urged the government to keep unemployment low by introducing a short-time working scheme.

Manufacturer’s body the EEF also put upskilling workers at the heart of its submission to the Pre-Budget Report. The organisation called for clarity on the future funding for skills programmes, after news that flagship projects such as Train to Gain were under threat.

The EEF also warned businesses should not have to burden higher taxes, and called for a freeze in small companies’ rate of corporate tax until April 2011.

Meanwhile, in its Pre-Budget Report submission, employers’ group the CBI said radical public services reform was needed to deliver significant savings.

The body has estimated an extra £120bn will need to be taken out of current spending to achieve budget balance by 2015-16.

John Cridland, deputy director general of the CBI, said: “We have identified how the required savings might be achieved by re-engineering the ways in which public services are delivered. By introducing new technology and competition, eliminating waste and inefficiency, and tackling unaffordable pensions and pay head on, we can avoid crude cuts to front-line staff and the vital services on which we all depend.”

Cridland added better management of staff sickness and temporarily freezing the public sector pay bill could yield savings of £27bn by 2015.

During the Budget 2009, the chancellor Alastair Darling said the he was looking to claw back £15bn annually by 2013-14 from ‘efficiency savings’, achieved through HR and back-office job cuts, and the introduction of more shared-services centres.

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