This government has created over a million private sector jobs and in Redditch it shows. Last year the number of new business start-ups in Redditch increased by 14 per cent, creating new jobs and new investment.
This has led to a fall in the unemployment rate in our local community, however, nationally jobs continue to be scarce and difficult to secure. Last week’s job figures revealed there are 668,000 unemployed 16-24 year olds – 19.4% per cent of the age group population.
It is therefore crucial that we continue to do all we can to create jobs and help young people prosper in them. And it is not just a lack of jobs that stands in young people’s way – for some it is a lack of suitable access to the jobs that are already out there.
Recently the campaigning organisation Greener Journeys, together with the University of Leeds, investigated the link between the young unemployed and buses. Their research revealed 82% of unemployed 18-24 year olds have no access to a car and are therefore heavily reliant on public transport.
I was therefore delighted to host the launch of Bus 2020: A Manifesto for the next Parliament in Westminster last week. In Bus 2020 Greener Journeys has brought together the bus operators, key academic thinkers and consumer research to develop recommendations which will help drive economic growth.
Their first recommendation is a concessionary bus travel scheme for apprentices – this would be a significant stride in helping young people to access training, with net benefits of £6 million and an annual jobs impact of £8 million.
Secondly, and also of key importance to help young people keep a job, is the Bus Bonus, a new tax incentive offering a 34 % tax and national insurance saving on season tickets to employees at a workplace with 10 or more staff. This they have estimated to create annual net benefits to the economy of £72 million, with an annual jobs impact of £25 million.
The third proposal of improved bus priority measures, such as more bus lanes, would produce better services for all, reduced journey times and improved reliability. This would mean that young people could continue to rely on the bus to get them to work on time.
These concrete proposals could quickly help boost access for young people, boost job creation and improve bus services across the UK. I wish Greener Journeys continued success in finding support for the bus.
By Karen Lumley, MP for Redditch, member of the Transport Select Committee and the All Party Group on Youth Unemployment