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Wonky wheels on Iain Duncan Smith’s ‘bike-lite’

So the party of the family wants to shift jobless peoplefrom unemployment blackspots to areas of high vacancy rates. Not so much a brutal “geton yer bike” but a polite “let me help you on yer bike (with an almighty shove)”.It’s bike-lite.

That we have areas of high unemployment is indisputable.That there are parts of the country screaming out for labour is more difficultto show – at least for work rewarded with a living wage.

Many of the “ghettos of poverty” referred to by work andpensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith are today ghost-towns of a bygoneindustrial age, with generations excluded from mainstream society but heldtogether by the glue of friends and family.

So what happens if mum or dad – or both – are force-shovedon to the metaphorical bike? Switching from a former pit village in a Welshvalley to a job in relatively high-earning London may seem attractive.

Smith says moving everyone to south-east England is not hisaim. Yet history suggests that if people are to move, London is among theprimary destinations along with the wider South East.

And when they arrive? The jobs on offer will be at the lowerend of the pay scale, for it is unlikely that many people from the “ghettos ofpoverty” will be professional or highly skilled. With London’s housing renownedfor its exorbitant rents, social housing construction at a virtual standstilland the capital’s schools already stretched, that bike might as well stay inthe shed and rust.

What Smith has overlooked is that communities – particularlyin poorer areas – exist to support each other emotionally and, often,financially. The role of family is of huge importance in this and kinship carecomes into its own. Break these bonds and you break society.

None of this is to say that people should never move to findwork.

But should not the government seek to put an infrastructurein place – whether it is training or housing or schools or even investing inthe “ghettos of poverty” – before suggesting that people ought to be movedaround the country in what looks like some social engineering experiment?

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One Response to Wonky wheels on Iain Duncan Smith’s ‘bike-lite’

  1. Peter L. Griffiths 12 April , 2013 at 12:43 am #

    Duncan Smith’s proposals ignore the fact that peace time unemployment largely arises from improved productive devices replacing labour. In recognition of this, all adult members of society should be given an untaxed housing benefit partly financed by abolishing the personal tax allowance.