Political storm over Sheffield jobs firm A4e

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LIB Dems have accused Labour of ‘cynical’ attacks on the Government’s use of Sheffield-based training firm A4e for its Work Programme to help jobless people.

The coalition said it was Labour who gave A4e its Government contracts and said Sheffield MP and former cabinet minister David Blunkett is on its payroll as an adviser.

A4e, headed by city businesswoman Emma Harrison, has twice caused controversy in the last week – over her £8m pay in the past year and after police were called in to investigate alleged fraud at an A4e office in Slough. Four people have been arrested and bailed by Thames Valley Police.

Labour MP Margaret Hodge, chairwoman of the Parliamentary public accounts committee, has called for the Government to consider suspending its contract with A4e.

But a senior Lib Dem said: “Labour are being cynical and hypocritical. Not only did they give A4e the Government contracts in the first place, but David Blunkett is a paid up adviser.”

According to the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough MP Mr Blunkett is paid between £25,001 and £30,000 a year to advise A4e on ‘business development’ and ‘global public service reform’.

Mr Blunkett said: “This is a rather cheap and extremely nasty personal attack on me.”