Boroughs stepping up to tackle employment and skills shortages

London boroughs are committed to turning the tide of rising unemployment by delivering effective local employment services, according to a new survey released by London Councils.

Almost all London boroughs (91%) provide a local employment support service, with the other 9% signposting to other services. The employment services are varied in how they provide support to residents, with the most common services offered including access to local vacancies (100%), interview preparation and coaching (100%), help with CV and job applications (96%), access to an employment advisor (96%) and support to improve skills (93%).

The vast majority of London boroughs (89%) said that they changed their employment service in response to local skills and labour market shortages in the last year, as a direct result of the pandemic. On average, boroughs’ estimated annual budget for their employment services in 2021 was £1,538,826, over half a million more than the budget in 2020 (£949,103).

The increase in boroughs’ budget for employment services meant more people were able to access the service each year - 44,274 across London in 2021, almost double the number in 2020 (24,910) .

There was also an increase in the number of staff employed by borough employment services collectively to 683, nearly double the number recorded the previous year (387). This upscaling in staff has created greater capacity to deliver services to more residents and to provide greater opportunity for employment prospects for service users.

Unemployment in London remains above the UK average. The latest ONS figures show 4.8% of Londoners are unemployed, compared to the UK-wide figure of 3.8%. This is the second-highest rate in the country, with only north-east England recording higher unemployment. London has the highest number of people receiving universal credit (920,226 – almost one in ten Londoners) among the regions.

However, borough employment services face an uncertain future as the European Social Fund (ESF) winds down and the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) is introduced this year. Under current guidelines, the funding for employment services will be taken from the people and skills investment strand of the UKSPF, which will not be available until 2024.

London Councils is working with partners across London to create an investment plan to put to government to protect these essential services as much as possible, especially during the two year-long gap in funding, with the aim of minimising the damage of reducing support to unemployed people across London.

Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz, Executive Member for Skills and Employment, said

“It is incredible just how much London boroughs stepped up during the pandemic in a time where supporting people into jobs was a real lifeline. Although boroughs have no statutory duty to provide local employment support services, they showed and continue to show commitment to local communities through increasing the capacity of interview coaches, skills providers and other much-needed initiatives.

“However, unemployment levels across London remain high and universal credit claims are now higher than pre-pandemic levels in London. There is still a lot of work to be done in the face of uncertain economic outlook as London’s unemployment numbers experience a slower recovery from the pandemic in comparison to the rest of the country.

“We are currently developing our investment plan for UKSPF but services like these face a period of real uncertainty. Boroughs do not want employment and skills provision to be lost at a time when London is experiencing skills shortages and an increase in economic inactivity and rising cost of living. The government should allow local areas to spend UKSPF on employment and skills from 2023 onwards.

“It is inspiring to see London boroughs championing their residents with these job brokerages and supporting people to find work. We will continue to work with Government to help Londoners access the jobs and skills they need to succeed.”


Notes to editors:

1) Please click here to see the full survey results.


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