‘Get on your bike’

AT THE height of the 1981 recession Tory cabinet minister Norman Tebbit infamously demanded that the unemployed ‘get on their bikes’ and move to areas where, supposedly, there were jobs.

Last week, the current Tory work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, also told unemployed council tenants to move to areas where there are jobs. The Tory MP hinted that he wanted powers to force them to move.

IDS says millions are trapped in “ghettos of poverty” with high unemployment, unable to move for fear of losing their homes. But his strategy of turning the unemployed into industrial nomads wandering the Home Counties in search of work is deeply flawed.

Even if jobs in areas of low unemployment were readily available, there clearly is not enough social housing in these places to enable council tenants from unemployment hotspots to swap their council houses and move.

And in areas like the south east the high cost of housing means that workers would need to be earning over £50,000 a year to think about applying for a mortgage on a modest-sized house in the cheapest London borough.

It is already the case that due to the lack of social housing many essential workers such as health workers, firefighters, teachers, etc, cannot afford to live in high cost areas in the south east but are forced to commute long distances.

Rising unemployment is not the result of uncooperative council tenants refusing to travel but the result of a deep capitalist recession made worse through government spending cuts.