The jobless are to be allowed to “swap” their council homes to help them find work in other parts of the country under plans to make the unemployed more mobile.
By Tom Whitehead, Home Affairs Editor
2:38PM BST 16 Oct 2011
Grant Shapps, the housing minister, will announce the scheme within weeks amid growing concerns in Government after the numbers out of work hit a 17-year high.
The move is reminiscent of Lord Tebbit, who famously told the unemployed to “get on your bike” and find work during the 1981 Tory party conference.
Mr Shapps is keen to provide those hunting jobs with more flexibility to look further afield.
Currently, council tenants are restricted in their ability to move and usually only within the same local authority area, preventing them from taking up job offers elsewhere on the country.
The planned house swap scheme could involve a national database of properties around the country.
Unemployment is currently running at 2.57 million, the highest level for 17 years a figure David Cameron, the Prime Minister, was forced to admit was “disappointing”.
Mr Shapps said: “It’s crazy that some people don’t want council tenants to have the
same life opportunities as everyone else.
“At the moment tenants who live in social homes might be able to move nearby, but there’s almost no chance of a longer-distance move to take up a new job offer or move
closer to their family.
“I’m not content to restrict opportunities for the eight million social tenants in this country – that’s why we are determined to shake up the lazy consensus that traps people in this system.
“HomeSwap Direct will give social tenants the power to arrange their own home swaps and make the most of every opportunity.”
Lord Tebbit said: “When I look around I find that an enormous number of jobs are taken here from people who have come from Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania. They have moved sometimes over a thousand miles to find a job.
“Anything which can be done to make it easier to move to jobs is obviously a good thing.”
However, critics last night accused the Government of trying to blame rising unemployment solely on a lack of mobility.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, said: “All the language around getting people back into work has been directed with the implicit message that people aren’t prepared to be mobile to find work. “But the unemployment figures out this week show that in any category, but particularly if you are young or a woman, there are just no jobs available.”
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber added: “Across the country there aren’t enough jobs for people to do and most job hunters are going to be understandably reluctant to uproot their families and move hundreds of miles from their support networks.”