Council to focus on jobs as unemployment soars

Walthamstow Job Centre
Job Centre Plus in Westbury Road, Walthamstow

Report by Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter, and James Cracknell

Helping residents get jobs is now Waltham Forest Council’s “number one priority”, according to the council leader.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data released last week revealed unemployment in the borough had trebled since the start of the pandemic, with one-in-ten working age residents now out of work. Waltham Forest has seen the fourth-highest rise of unemployment in London.

Further data shows that of the local businesses trading last year, one out of every 20 was forced to dissolve by May as the coronavirus lockdown battered the economy.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, council leader Clare Coghill said the local authority aimed to help residents who have lost their jobs retrain and make the borough “as attractive to businesses as possible”.

She said: “Jobs have always been a priority but even more so now…. it’s never been more important.

“We need to be making sure people can access training to get the skills they need to progress in their jobs or even to change jobs.”

She said the council hopes to help residents get “the type of jobs increasingly available in London”, such as in the tech industry, and take advantage of the borough’s location. In addition to proximity to Shoreditch, historically the centre of London tech, the borough is also in the UK’s “innovation corridor”, which stretches from London to Cambridge and is an important region for advanced technology and bioscience.

Councillor Coghill is focusing on its relationships with its own adult learning service and the borough’s further education institutions, such as Waltham Forest College. In particular, she highlighted the success of the adult learning service’s work with TSS, a security company based in Highams Park, over the last three years. In 2017, TSS took on its first apprentice from the service. Following the success of this attempt, it now has seven apprentices at once and has given six people full-time jobs.

The council received 17,000 requests for financial help in April this year, more than five times the number of requests made the year before.

ONS data showed the number of Waltham Forest residents claiming unemployment benefits has now risen to nearly 18,000, representing 9.6% of the working age population, up from around 6,000 before the start of the pandemic.