By James Frith (@jamesfrith)
In 2006 I was working with employers as a lead for Employment and Skills across greater Manchester. The impact of immigration was proving a huge benefit to our local economy and did much to grow the businesses and employers serving our economic area.
Nationally and locally Labour was doing huge amounts with investment in skills and regeneration. The problem was, efforts and opportunities weren’t joined together with training in local colleges or as prospects for the jobless. Quite apart from appreciating the impact that migration had on many local wards of greater Manchester fighting to keep up with the rapid change afoot.
One example is of a fabrications company (part of the now fondly referred to, 4th industrial revolution) in north Manchester. Spotted as a future proof business and grower, they were given incentives by the then Labour Government and Local Labour Councils to move to an area where their new, emerging jobs would be most in need for local people. But locally and nationally, we didn’t do enough to join up the skills and immigration policy. So the jobs continued to require a new source of EU skilled labour rather than being a way to regenerate the life opportunities of local people and those already living here. Labour cannot be coy in admitting this. We proudly spent the benefits of this economic boom, super charged by skilled economic labour from the EU, on historic levels of public service investment benefitting all. But whilst the newly created Migration Advisory Committee in the Home Office at the time began its work to asses, and in some cases question, the impact of these population increases, efforts to move fast or first in considering how we add the local unemployed in to this new demand for well skilled, well paid work fell well short. This should be heeded by new city region mayors soon to be responsible for ensuring skills and labour needs are joined up. This should also be a warning on the potential huge skills shortages our economy will face in the Brexit reckoning.
Immigration is an asset to the richness of British life. Let’s learn lessons as to how any movement of people can impact on the areas most explicitly feeling the pressures and feelings it brings. The failing of progressive, centre-left politics to sympathise and address this mixed issue is part of the problem.
EU citizens right to stay
The government’s shameful absence in its Brexit bill of protecting those EU citizens, for whom the UK is their home, with a right to stay amendment, as moved by Labour’s Harriet Harman must be among the first checks the Labour party applies to the Tory’s take on Brexit.