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Labour would guarantee a job to all adults out of work for more than two years, Ed Balls has announced today.
Writing exclusively for PoliticsHome, the Shadow Chancellor said the £1bn policy, which would be paid for by reducing tax relief on pension contributions for those earning over £150,000, is one of the first indicators of a Labour government’s approach to welfare.
If people refused the minimum wage job, they would “face losing benefits”, Mr Balls said, and he also expressed the hope that the programme could eventually be extended to those out of work for over 12 months.
David Cameron hit out at the plans, saying Labour should be focusing on their "bizarre decision" to oppose the Government's below-inflation uprating of benefits, which MPs vote on next Tuesday.
Tory co-chairman Grant Shapps also criticised the proposal, saying Labour had already committed the money from cutting pensions relief to cutting tax credits.
But Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne explained that his party had always said they would not commit to reversing tax credit rises once the policy had gone through.
"“We also said that we couldn’t commit to reversing those changes when the Government had pushed them through; and now the Government has made those changes, our position is the same: we can’t promise to reverse those changes now that they’re in place," he told the Today programme.
Mr Byrne claimed a compulsory jobs guarantee would work to control the welfare budget where the Government had failed.
“And so the compulsory jobs guarantee is a simple idea. It’s based on the success of the Future Jobs Fund, and anyone who has been out of work for a number of years must find a job or we will invest in providing one, and unless they take that job, they will lose benefits. Now for some people, I accept that will be a culture shock, but for many more it will be a lifeline.”
But Mr Shapps insisted "the best way" to get unemployment down was to incentivise work by raising the level at which the lowest-paid start paying income tax.
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Summaries and transcripts from TV and radio
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