THE Gazette can today reveal the shocking extent of Blackpool’s unemployment nightmare.
The town’s jobless total has burst through the 4,500 barrier, and uncertainty over jobs at Blackpool Council and the civil service looks set to swell that figure further.
Almost one in four of the town’s working age population – 19,062 – now rely entirely on benefits for their income.
But that is only the tip of a worrying iceberg.
Unemployment rose more than 3.5 per cent in the town in November alone.
Jobseekers already face huge competition in the jobs market. Tesco bosses were inundated with applications and had to whittle the number of applications down to 55 for just one full time and nine part-time jobs at Tesco’s new store in Thornton
While the town’s jobseekers number 4,592, there are a further 14,470 people on benefits – including 11,080 on Incapacity Benefit.
And fears have been raised “benefit tourism” is taking its toll on the town’s coffers.
Blackpool Coun Ian Fowler, deputy leader for the authority and vice-chair of its special employment committee, said: “Why people want to come to the seaside to claim their benefits I do not know - but they do.
“We have a huge problem with the transient population. We have people coming here for this purpose.
“We need to make sure we have the systems and money in place to make sure we can look after them and to make sure they are claiming the right benefits, and all that they are entitled to.”
New research by Sheffield Hallam University shows 22 per cent of male and 25 per cent of female claimants started claiming their benefits from outside of Blackpool.
And despite the fact the town’s fortunes seem on the up with the arrival of Merlin’s attractions and Nickelodeon at the Pleasure Beach next year, coupled with improvements in the town’s hotel stock, Blackpool’s situation appears to be getting worse.
Blackpool Council looks set to axe up to 1,000 workers due to the Government’s austerity measures, and potential cuts in the Civil Service – one of the area’s biggest employers with large offices at Norcross, Peel Park and Warbreck – will not be known until later this year.
The town is now the 12th worst in the country for working age benefit claimants – compared to 1999 when the area was ranked 30th.
The number of jobs in the town has reduced in the past 11 years - 57,000, down from 60,000 recorded in 1999.
FOR FULL STORY SEE WEDNESDAY’S GAZETTE