Recent figures released by the Ministry of Justice show that the average length of time for the Tribunals Service to administer an Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) appeal in Coventry was 29 weeks between April 2013 and March 2014 (the latest period for which figures are available). This is well above the national average in England for the same period, which stood at 23 weeks, and above the West Midlands regional average of 27 weeks.
The Tory-led Government had previously provided assurances that they would implement a number of measures to ensure that the average appeal waiting time in Coventry reached parity with the national average. However, in spite of the actions taken by the Government to reduce waiting times, it continues to takes an additional 6 weeks on average for the disposal of a Coventry appeal when compared with the national average in England.
The average ESA appeal waiting times in Coventry have now been persistently higher than the regional and national averages for the duration of this Government’s time in office.
The Ministry of Justice statistics also revealed that the proportion of ESA appeals decided in favour of the appellant in Coventry in 2013/14 (the latest period for which figures are available) stood at 48%. These figures clearly show that had the original decision to disallow a claimant’s ESA been made correctly in the first place, the number of appeals would have been reduced by half over the period. This would have freed up significant capacity in the courts and ensured that the remaining appeals were heard in a timelier manner.
In the House of Commons yesterday, the Home Secretary responded to an Urgent Question on the processing delays at HM Passport Office. Bob questioned the Home Secretary’s response in dealing with the delays experienced by thousands of people who are waiting for their new passports. This is the Home Secretary’s response:
Mr Bob Ainsworth (Coventry North East) (Lab): The Home Secretary is now announcing a series of measures; the problem has been ongoing and apparent not for a couple of weeks, but for months. Members of Parliament—myself and everyone else—have been inundated by constituents in panic and distress. Why has it taken so long for this problem to be recognised and for measures to be taken to address this issue?
Mrs May: The increase in demand was recognised earlier this year. HM Passport Office put steps in place to deal with that increased demand. The increased demand continued and, as a result, further steps were put in place. Those steps included increasing the number of staff available to deal with the applications, increasing the number of staff on the telephone helpline, extending the hours of operation of HM Passport Office and working with couriers to ensure that printed passports were delivered within a very short space of time once they were issued. Over time, as the demand has increased, steps have been taken. It is clear that further steps need to be taken, and they are being taken. (Hansard, 12 June 2014)
In the House of Commons yesterday, the Foreign Secretary made a statement on the current situation in Ukraine. During the statement, Bob asked him about the “calibrated but determined approach” towards Russian actions:
Mr Bob Ainsworth (Coventry North East) (Lab): The Foreign Secretary will continue to receive widespread support in all parts of the House if he maintains the calibrated but determined approach that he has laid out in his statement. The trick is to make certain that the Russians realise the level of determination to resist their incursions into Ukraine, balanced by allowing them the time to think through the consequences of their actions—I am not at all sure that they have done so. Does he agree?
Mr Hague: Yes, I absolutely agree. Thinking through the long-term consequences has not necessarily happened, as I said to the right hon. Member for Neath (Mr Hain). Part of our approach in what we are trying to do is to take certain measures that have an impact while making it clear that there are further and more serious measures that we are prepared to take. We are giving the time for that to sink in and for negotiations to take place such as those in Geneva 11 days ago. I hope and believe that we have the calibration right, and I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman’s support for it. (Hansard, 28 April 2014)
Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the number of under-employed people in Coventry has increased year-on-year since the Tory-led Government came to office.
Workers are defined as under-employed if they are willing to work more hours, either by working in an additional job, working more hours in their current job, or switching to a replacement job. They must also be available to start working longer hours within two weeks, and their current weekly hours must be below 40 hours if they are aged between 16 and 18 and below 48 hours if they are aged over 18.
In a letter to Bob, Peter Fullerton – Director General of the ONS – confirmed that, according to Annual Population Survey datasets, the estimated number of under-employed people in Coventry increased from 13,100 in 2010 to 13,400 in 2011 and 13,600 in 2012 (the latest period for which figures are available).
The under-employment problem in Coventry highlights just how out of touch this Government is with the cost of living crisis facing the city’s hard working families, who are worried about whether they will be able to make ends meet and put food on the table for their children. As wages are now down £1600 a year after inflation under David Cameron and tax and benefit changes since 2010 have left families worse off by an average of £891 this year.
“The Government’s cost of living crisis affecting people in Coventry is being perpetuated by an increase in under-employment.
“It is clear that under-employment is a growing problem for thousands of families in Coventry who are already feeling the squeeze from rising prices and falling wages. An estimated one in ten of those in work in Coventry are now unable to work the hours they would like.
“These figures show that this out of touch Government really needs to wake up from its complacency on living standards now.”
In 2012, the Tory-led Government committed to implement a number of measures to bring down the average waiting time for an Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) appeal hearing in Coventry – which had increased significantly during their time in office from 14.3 weeks in 2009-10 to 55 weeks in 2012-13.
Whilst the average ESA appeal waiting time in Coventry appears to have decreased since 2012 – according to figures released by the Ministry of Justice – it is still well above the national and regional averages.
In response to a Parliamentary Questions asked by Bob, the Ministry of Justice revealed that the average length of time for the Tribunals Service to administer an ESA appeal in Coventry was as high as 30.8 weeks during the period January to September 2013 (the latest period for which figures are available). This is well above the national average in England and Wales which stood as low as 18.8 weeks during the same period and 24.8 weeks in the West Midlands.
These figures reveal that those whose appeals were heard in Coventry were likely to wait as long as an extra 12 weeks for the disposal of their appeal when compared with the national average in England and Wales.
It was further revealed that average waiting times in Coventry have been persistently higher than the regional and national averages over the same period.
Moreover, the Ministry of Justice has issued statistics which show that the percentage of ESA appeals decided in favour of the appellant in the first three quarters of 2013 in Coventry stood at 45% (January to March), 48% (April to June) and 40% (July to September). These figures clearly show that had the original decision to disallow a claimant’s ESA been made correctly in the first place, there would have been nearly half as many appeals in Coventry over the period. This would have freed up capacity in the courts and ensured that appeals were heard in a timelier manner.
“These figures clearly demonstrate that appellants in Coventry are consistently waiting longer on average for their appeals to be heard than those in other areas of the country. This undoubtedly disadvantages those in Coventry, many of whom are already in a vulnerable position, and adds additional stress and anxiety to what is already a difficult process.
“It is clear that the Government must take further steps to increase capacity across the Tribunals Service, as well as take action to increase the accuracy of initial decision making. It is only by taking this affirmative action that waiting times in Coventry will start to fall further and faster and at the very least reach parity with the national average.”
For millions of families there is no economic recovery at all.
Working people have suffered a massive fall in the value of real earnings since David Cameron became Prime Minister.
Prices are soaring, wages are falling and working people are on average £1,600 worse off. Yet David Cameron continues to demonstrate how out of touch he is with the struggles millions are facing.
So, at a time when the cost of gas, electricity and other household bills continues to rise, it is wrong for the Prime Minister to turn the cheek and pretend this cost of living crisis isn’t happening.
Labour will tackle the cost of living crisis that working people in Coventry face. We will build more homes and boost apprenticeships. We will cut business rates and expand childcare to make sure work always pays.
The Cost of Cameron’s policies is too high and its hard-working people that are footing the bill. This can’t go on. We need to change our economy and ensure that living standards rise for the many, not just a few at the top.
David Cameron says the economy is healing but for many, things are getting worse not better, as prices continue to rise faster than wages and people struggle to make ends meet.
For working mums and dads, childcare is a major part of the problem, but concerns about rising costs – up 30% under Cameron, five times faster than wages – reduced support and fewer places are falling on deaf ears.
David Cameron is ignoring the plight of hard pressed families while he’s cutting taxes for millionaires and that sends a very strong signal about whose side he is on.
Childcare will be a key front in One Nation Labour’s battle to tackle the cost of living crisis. We know mums and dads, who are already struggling to cope with rising bills and stagnant wages, really need bold policies to make a difference to their lives.
Labour’s Primary Childcare Guarantee will give all parents of primary school children the guarantee of childcare availability through their school from 8am-6pm. By extending the free childcare offer from 15 to 25 hours, Labour will make working parents of three and four year olds over £1500 better off. And we won’t forget Sure Start centres, which David Cameron promised to back when he asked for people’s votes, before breaking his promise in Number 10. Under him there are 578 fewer Sure Start centres than there were in 2010.
Britain cannot ignore the childcare crisis parents face.
David Cameron says the economy is back on track – but for millions of people things are getting harder, not easier. A real recovery is one where everybody benefits, not just a privileged few at the top.