The number of claims for Jobseekers’ Allowance in Wandsworth dropped, very marginally, in June.  Given that the national news is reporting a record rise in unemployment, the fact we’ve had a small drop in claims has to be good news.
Wandsworth JSA claims Jun 08 - Jun 09

The fall was small, just 82, and there are caveats (these are people claiming benefit, which isn’t the totality of unemployment) but as I have said before there is reason to be confident in Wandsworth.

I’ve also put together this chart, which shows the rate of claims over the past year for Wandsworth, London and Great Britain.

JSA claim rates Jun 08 - Jun 09

It shows two things.  First, Wandsworth has a significantly lower rate of JSA claims than London or Great Britain as a whole.  Second, and most importantly, the gap has widened.  Last year Wandsworth’s rates were 0.8% and 0.4% below London’s and Great Britain’s rates respectively.  This had increased to 1.1% and 1.0% this June.

Again, I can add caveats, Wandsworth’s economy is a small part of the nation and will be affected by the national recession.  And because it’s small it can be more susceptible to large swings.  However, although I am pessimistic about the recession nationally, I remain confident that Wandsworth can weather the storm better than many other places.  We’ve created a dynamic economy here; we aren’t immune to recession, but we can fight it better.

The Wandsworth total of JSA claimaints (people actively signing on as unemployed) was 6,348 (a rate of 3.1%).  This is a drop of 82 people, or 1.3% (or a -1.3% increase, as Gordon Brown would probably call it) on the month.

The figures are still considerably higher than last year, 2,607 extra claimants, an increase of 69.7%.

Gordon Brown’s economic miracle doesn’t seem to show any sign of slowing.  My observation that the rate of increase seemed to have slowed last month was shown to be idle conjecture this month as the rate grew again.

JSA claimants May 08 - May 09

I will continue to say that Wandsworth seems to be weathering the recession better than most places.  There are a lot of reasons to be confident, indeed, part of my spot at Balham last Thursday was to highlight the reasons we should be positive in Wandsworth.  But that does not mean we aren’t being hit by the recession, nor does it make it any easier for those who are losing their jobs.

The Wandsworth total of Jobseekers Allowances claimaints (i.e. people who have signed on as unemployed, and excluding those who are unemployed but have chosen not to register) rose to 6,430 – a rate of 3.1%.  As I say every month, this still compares favourably to the London and national rates of 4.2% and 4.1% respectively.

The total was 341 higher than last month and 2,656 higher than this time last year, increases of 5.6% and 70.4% respectively.

The number of people claiming Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) in Wandsworth broke through the 6,000 mark in April.

JSA claimants Apr 08 - Apr 09

The rate of increase was slower than previous months, not enough to say we’ve turned the corner, or even that we’re approaching the corner, but a smaller increase is good news nonetheless.

The total claiming JSA in April was 6,098, a rate of 3% which still compares favourably with the rates for London and nationally, both at 4.1%.

The total was 209 higher than last month and 2,390 higher than this time last year.  Increases of 3.5% and 64.5% respectively.

With the Chancellor about to start his budget speech unemployment continues to climb.  Nationally 2.1 million people are claiming Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) with nearly 6,000 of those in Wandsworth.

JSA claimants Mar 08 - Mar 09In total 5,889 people are claiming JSA, 2.9% of the Wandsworth population.  We continue to be in a better position than the national and London averages, which are at 4%.

The figure for March is an increase of 408 (7.4%) from February and 2,144 (57.2%) from the same time last year.

This does not reveal the full extent of unemployment, just those who have chosen to apply for JSA and are found to be eligible.  Figures for actual unemployment are produced much later, the most recent figures show that in August last year 20,700 people of working age were on benefits.  Even less recent were the figures for last June which showed 9,000 people were unemployed (the JSA claim at the same time was just 3,741).

Unemployment claims nationally have hit 2,000,000 and if you follow this blog you’ll know I regularly report the JobSeeker’s Allowance JSA claims for Wandsworth.  The figures for February were released yesterday and showed a 13.6% jump from January.

JSA claimants Feb 08 - Feb 09

The increase means I’ve had to change the scale on the graph I was using (which only went to 5,000).  I’ve added 1,000 to the scale, but suspect it won’t last long.

In total 5,481 people were claiming JSA in Wandsworth in February.  This is an increase of 658 (13.6%) since January this year and an increase of 1,697 (44.8%) since February last year.  This figure contributes to a total 20,700 (10%) people who are claiming working age benefits in Wandsworth.

Gordon Brown still hasn’t said sorry.

It’s worth pointing out that unemployment and JSA claims are not the same thing.  You can be unemployed but, for whatever reason, not claim JSA.  The most recent total unemployment figures for Wandsworth are for June 2008 when 9,000 people were listed as unemployed but only 3,741 people were claiming JSA.

The January figures of Jobseekers Allowance claims have continued to rise.  January’s figures show an increase of 168 for the month, 1,082 for the year.

JSA claimants Jan 08 - Jan 09

It’s a fairly significant increase, although less than the previous month.

It’s worth bearing in mind that this is a total of Jobseekers Allowance claimants, those people who have registered as unemployment and been given Jobseekers Allowance.  The actual unemployment total is significantly higher.  Unemployment figures for boroughs are produced over six months after the period in question.  However, nationally the unemployment figure is 6.3%, whereas the national JSA claimant rate is just 3.4%.

While it the announcement that the UK is formally in a recession was expected, the size of the fall of GDP took many by surprise.  Three quarters have now passed since the UK economy grew, Q2 2008 saw the economy remain flat, to be followed by 0.6% and 1.5% contractions in Q3 and Q4.

And the effects have been felt in Wandsworth.  Jobseekers Allowance claims rose steeply in December 2008.JSA-claims-dec-2007-dec-2008Over the course of the year, from December 2007 to December 2008, Jobseekers Allowance claims rose by 937 (3,718 to 4,655).  The increase between November and December 2008 was 359 (4,296 – 4655).  However, Wandsworth can still claim some good news as it is still in a better position than London and the rest of the Britain; in Wandsworth 2.3% of residents claim JSA, compared to a rate of 3.2% and 3% for London and Britain respectively.

brown-i-didnt-see-crisis-comingWe’re officially in recession, with a second quarter of ‘negative growth’, although we’ve gone three quarters without any growth.  Unemployment is rising, so is crime, and house values are falling almost as quickly as high street names.  So why is it, as a Conservative, I sorry for Gordon Brown?

It is an odd feeling.  But I’ve had it for a long time.  I think it’s because he’s actually not very good at his job, I’m sure he’s well-meaning and has the best intentions, but sadly he’s just not up to delivering on them.

I was first aware of it shortly after he became Prime Minister.  He’d desperately wanted the job for so long, and when he finally got it, it turns out he’s not very good at it.  It’s like being a child at Christmas, desperately wanting some toy, then, finally getting it and discovering that it isn’t actually anything like you imagined it.

What has really compounded my pity is the discovery that he wasn’t any good at his last job either.  He’s basically spent the past 12 years turning up for work and hoping no-one spots that he’s bluffing, promising “an end to boom and bust” and sustained growth.  Of course, now he blames the international banking system, as if it’s something new rather than something he failed to regulate or monitor properly.  Or maybe he managed 10 years as Chancellor ignorant of the fact there was a banking system.

And bizarrely, all of us have known for a long time it was coming.  I remember having conversations in pubs at least 3 or 4 years ago, speculating on whether it was worth selling the house and banking the equity for when the crash came, and most people I know can recall similar thoughts or conversations from before the recession.

The benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing, but when the man in the pub can feel it coming, it really speaks to the incompetence of a man not spotting it despite having an entire Treasury of civil servants and economists.

But although I feel sorry for the guy, I feel sorrier for the ordinary people who are losing their jobs and homes on his watch and it’s time for me to move past my sentimentality.  We all love the plucky amateur who refuses to recognise his lack of talent – shows like The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent trade on it – but when he’s managed to rise so far above his level of competence that he’s running the country, and running it into the ground, he doesn’t deserve pity – he deserves the boot.

Laverstoke Gardens, one of the areas what would be improved in the council's regeneration

Laverstoke Gardens, one of the areas that would be improved in the council's regeneration

Last night’s Regeneration and Community Safety Overview and Scrutiny Committee was something of a blast from the past, since the Labour Party spent a lot of time presenting a paper prepared by Stuart King.  Stuart was a councillor in Wandsworth from 1998 until 2006 when he lost his seat.  He was also the Labour group leader and served on a lot of the same committees as me before his defeat.

Stuart’s latest hobby has been representing the Labour party in Putney, and as part of this he has, as is his right, been campaigning against our plans to create employment, quality housing and businesses and a pleasant environment in Roehampton.

The Labour group brought one of his misleading surveys to the committee last night.  Despite admitting that the council had conducted extensive consultation in the area and that King’s report could be said to be biased they suggested the council should spend more money to ask people, for the fourth time, what they thought.

In fact, I think it represents a total failure of the Labour group to provide community leadership.  It’s the fourth different position they have taken in four meetings.  First of all they supported regeneration.  Then they weren’t sure.  Then they opposed it.  Now they want to ask people what they should think.

What leaves me most disappointed is Tony Belton’s stance, since it seems his group is now, rather than serving the Wandsworth community, just dancing to Stuart King’s tune.

Roehampton has the borough’s highest unemployment rate.  It has higher than average crime.  It has a disproportionately high take up of non-work related benefits like incapacity and lone parent benefits.  It is badly served by public transport, so people face difficult journeys to work or learn.  Hence the scheme, designed to create employment in a refreshed centre at Danebury Avenue and Roehampton Lane.

It is one of the few times I have really been saddened by Wandsworth politics.  The political groups will always have different solutions to problems, but this is one time when Labour have shown a poverty of ambition and, in doing so, seek to remove the hope of Roehampton and Alton Estate residents.

National Statistics have released the latest figures of Jobseekers Allowance claimants.  In Wandsworth there has been an increase of 422 claims over the year from November 2007 to November 2008 – from 3,874 to 4,296.  Most worrying is that more than half of that increase, 251, was in just the last month, between October and November 2008.

jsa-claimaints-to-nov-08It does illustrate the speed at which the recession is having an impact, and, of course, only represents those people that have registered as unemployed and claim Jobseekers Allowance.

However, the news is not all bad, the figure represents 2.1% of the Wandsworth working age population – this compares to figures for 3% for London and 2.8% for Great Britain.

Wandsworth doesn’t have immunity from recession, but we are better placed than many to weather it.