SOUTH Yorkshire MP and Labour leader Ed Miliband has voiced concern about youth unemployment which remains high despite the end of recession.
Latest figures show the economy grew by one per cent over the last three months, the strongest figure for five years.
But in an exclusive interview with The Star, Mr Miliband said highlighted how 2,995 South Yorkshire youngsters aged 16 to 24 have been out of work for more than a year - up from 1,150 a year ago. He said: “Although I welcome the fact growth has returned, youth unemployment remains a massive problem.
“The reality is that hard working families are also struggling.
“Our first priority if a Labour Government was elected would be to put young people back to work. Let’s get banks working for business again in terms of providing funding, and help start building homes - construction would ease the shortage of family housing and provide work.”
Mr Miliband said that on overall unemployment, although numbers are starting to fall, recent statistics showing as many as 24 people chasing every vacancy in parts of Sheffield ‘show the reality of South Yorkshire’s jobs market’.
“I regularly meet people who’ve been out of work for 18 months to two years or more,” he said.
He said that the Government’s focus on cutting Government spending to reduce the national debt has hindered economic growth and creation of work.
Mr Miliband said: “I think the Government has been too hands-off in terms of helping the economy. They just thought that if you cut public spending the economy will return to growth on its own.”
He urged caution on new Govermment plans to restrict benefits for large unemployed families, which would see support payments capped to a maximum of two children.
He said: “The focus should be on getting people back to work which would bring the benefits bill down by itself. Any proposals should not unfairly affect the children.”
Mr Miliband said Government cuts to council budgets were hitting a ‘soft target’ - although he did not suggest alternative savings. South Yorkshire’s four councils are cutting tens of millions from next year’s budgets and laying off hundreds more staff.
“People rely on those local council services,” he said.
ED Miliband’s experiences around his Doncaster North constituency have helped to shape his new One Nation policies, the Labour leader said.
Mr Miliband, elected to the seat in 2005, said his role representing such a challenging area means he can see ‘outside the Westminster bubble’ and understand everyday problems affecting communities.
He said: “For me, Doncaster North is incredibly important because representing the area is a great way to test out my ideas.
“If they don’t work there, chances are they are not good plans for anywhere else.
“Holding a role as a constituency MP is so important so you can see what is happening away from Parliament and hear directly from members of the public.”
Mr Miliband said the priorities of his One Nation plan include creating good job opportunities for people who do not go to university, improving housing and looking at policies which benefit as many people as possible.
He attacked the coalition for ‘cutting taxes for millionnaires’ when general incomes are being squeezed.
But Mr Miliband accepted that some policies of the old Labour Government were wrong.
He said: “There are issues where we didn’t do as well as we should - immigration for one.
“People have said they didn’t thing we got it right on the amount of Polish migration, for example. It all happened too fast for many areas.”