A row over youth unemployment has broken out between two of the town’s leading politicians.
Cat Smith, Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Lancaster and Fleetwood, claims the number of people aged 18 to 24 claiming JobSeekers Allowance has gone up by 900 per cent.
The candidate said that in May 2010, there were five youngsters on the benefit for more than a year, but by January 2014 there were 50 in the same situation.
Ms Smith said: “There are so many young people out there trying desperately hard to find work and the longer this goes on for the more difficult it can become for them.
But Eric Ollerenshaw, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, disputed the figures, claiming Ms Smith has not taken Government changes since the last election into account when commenting on youth unemployment.
He said: “The figures quoted appear to be for the number of 18 to 24-year-olds claiming JSA for over 12 months, in Lancaster and Fleetwood constituency.
“There were five people in the constituency aged 18 to 24 claiming for over 12 months in May 2010, compared with 50 in February 2014.
“However, this increase can be explained, at least in part, by a change in 2011 to the way benefits are paid to certain individuals on welfare-to-work programmes.
“Previously, some individuals were moved from claiming JSA on to a training allowance when on certain schemes.
“If they were still unemployed after completing the scheme, they moved back on to JSA but were counted as a new claim, thereby breaking the original claim’s duration.
“Many fewer people have been moved from JSA to a training allowance since 2011 and this has resulted in the statistics showing a higher number of longer-term JSA claimants – particularly among the 18 to 24 age group.
“If you instead look at the total number of 18 to 24-year-olds in the constituency claiming JSA, it fell from 410 in May 2010 to 360 in February 2014.
Ms Smith called on the Government to adopt Labour’s Compulsory Jobs Guarantee.
Under this, Labour would guarantee any young person aged under 25 who had been unemployed for more than a year a job. If they refused to take it up they would lose their benefits.
Ms Smith said: “As these figures show they are not getting the help they need to find a job and there is a risk the talents of a generation of young people are being wasted at huge costs to themselves and our economy.
“The Compulsory Jobs Guarantee would give them new hope of a bright future.
“This is the slowest recovery for 100 years and more and more people are now working part-time or on zero-hours contracts.”
Fleetwood Town Councillor Terry Rogers added: “This is following a national trend in youth unemployment.
“As a local councillor I have heard stories from young people struggling to find work and it comes as no surprise.
“We need to look for quality jobs in the area.
“I’m not confident because of the way central government look at Fleetwood, it is very far down the pecking order when it comes to securing jobs.
“My other concern is that contractors who are given these jobs do tend to bring in their own workforce and not a lot of opportunities, and I can’t see this changing very soon until there’s a major change in Government.”