23 November 2017

The unforeseen result of  the General Election was partly attributed to young people coming out to vote  in larger numbers than had happened for some time. This demographic had previously not received much attention and it’s perhaps unsurprising following the result that mainstream media and politics are taking an interest to understand the needs and concerns of young people.

Over the past six months on behalf of our members we have participated in a number of consultations with politicians and with Government departments and have found a real appetite to learn more about what young people care about and what they need. Our research carried out last year and this year shows their key concerns are housing, jobs and safety.

So it was heartening to see young people specifically included by the Chancellor in his Budget address and mentioning issues that underpin our work. However, there was still no mention of what London Youth’s members care most about: the importance of funding proper youth services and preventing further cuts to those services.

The Budget always generates lots of media coverage and comment and there is always a lot to unpack. We have gone into the detail and are sharing our thoughts on what we think are key areas for our members.

Employability and pay
First the good stuff. Generally, young people were mentioned often – and on some of the issues we’ve been talking to government about, such as housing and expanding the use of the Apprenticeship Levy to include work placements and work experience.

This is a point we have made at various employability consultations we’ve attended, including an ERSA forum with the Department for Education. Thus it is encouraging that Philip Hammond said: “I’ll keep under review the flexibility that levy payers have to spend this money.” This is a point that we will continue to lobby for.

Wages are of course an important part of employability and it was also good to see rates increased for young people. The Chancellor said he accepted the recent recommendations of the Low Pay Commission and that his measures would be “supporting our young people with the largest increase in youth rates in ten years”.

The technical details on this were not announced in the House of Commons but in the supplementary paper that accompanies the main Budget, which says:

‘The government will also accept all of the LPC’s recommendations for the other NMW rates to apply from April 2018. For youth rates, this represents the largest increase in 10 years.

The recommendations include:

  • increasing the rate for 21 to 24 year olds by 4.7% from £7.05 to £7.38 per hour
  • increasing the rate for 18 to 20 year olds by 5.4% from £5.60 to £5.90 per hour
  • increasing the rate for 16 to 17 year olds by 3.7% from £4.05 to £4.20 per hour
  • increasing the rate for apprentices by 5.7% from £3.50 to £3.70 per hour’

Housing – renting and buying
Housing is frequently mentioned to us by young people in London as their main concern, both on their immediate lives in the family home and as they ponder their future lives as adults in the capital. Following the Budget announcements there are lots of headlines about the ending of stamp duty in certain price bands and of a commitment to building 300,000 houses a year. This was a flagship announcement by the Government, which is concerned that the number of 25-34 year olds owning their own home has dropped from 59% to just 38% over the last 13 years.

The Chancellor spoke at some length about the issues of young people both in buying and renting property. He was building on a commitment made by Theresa May at the Conservative Party Conference which was reflected in his Budget address when he said that “in Manchester a few weeks ago, my Right Honourable Friend the Prime Minister made a pledge to Britain’s younger generation that she would ‘dedicate [her] premiership to fixing this problem’.”

Yet, even with these changes, the  premium of housing in London may still mean that for most of the young people our members are supporting buying a property is still far from a realistic aim.  More of an issue , especially in London is the high cost and difficulties of renting.  So it was also welcome that the Chancellor did not just focus on buying but on the rental market. He said that the Government has recognised that rents “absorb too high a portion of monthly income’ and that housing policy also has ‘to meet the needs of those who rent”.

Philip Hammond also spoke of the particular challenges of building in urban areas and in areas of high demand such as London. This included  a pledge to look at planning laws as well; in London alone he said there are 270,000 planning permissions granted that have not resulted in housing being built.

The Chancellor said: “And to put the needs of our young people first, we will ensure that councils in high demand areas permit more homes for local first time buyers and affordable renters.”

In terms of what specific changes there are to be, we await further information on this as the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid will be making a follow-up statement on housing. In addition, a task force is being set up to look at what is holding back housing from being built and this will deliver an interim report by April 2018.

Youth services
Despite our frequent and urgent advocacy to political representatives and government of the vital importance of investing in youth provision, there was no mention of this in the Budget and this is of course disappointing.

The one hopeful point is the mooted change in business rates. London has been chosen to pilot a scheme where councils get to retain 100 per cent of the business rates they collect. However, this will depend on the flexibility that councils have to spend that money before we can know if any of those funds could go into youth services.

This response was written by Sarah Horner, interim Head of Communications at London Youth