Jobseekers may get on their bikes

Man on a bikeA job centre is considering helping the unemployed get on a bike and look for work by purchasing bicycles for those on the dole.

MPs heard the Jobcentre Plus in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, is investigating the purchase of bikes due to the poor state of public transport.
Labour MP Phil Wilson questioned whether this was now official Government policy to avoid providing train and bus services.

The move echoes the famous comment by Tory minister Lord Tebbit in 1981 that his father "got on his bike and looked for work" during the depression in the 1930s.

During questions on future Commons business, Sedgefield MP Mr Wilson asked Leader of the House Sir George Young: "Can we have a statement or a debate on the state of public transport in County Durham, which the employment minister (Chris Grayling) himself has called poor? It is now so bad that Jobcentre Plus in Newton Aycliffe is considering the purchase of bicycles so that people can now get to work. Is it now the policy of the Government to now actually purchase bicycles for people to get to work rather than provide public transport?"

Sir George, a keen cyclist, told Mr Wilson he would raise the issue with Transport Secretary Justine Greening. He said: "The previous government introduced a scheme whereby employers could make bicycles available on preferential terms to their employees, so there is a precedent. I understand your concern about the poor quality of public transport in your constituency, I will raise this with the Secretary of State for Transport and see whether there is any action she can take to relieve the problem you have just touched on."

Mr Wilson told the Press Association: "It seems the Government is implementing what Norman Tebbit said. Public transport in County Durham is a big issue. I have been inundated with petitions and phone calls and letters from constituents concerned about their inability to get to hospital, to see family and friends and to get to work, especially because of cuts in the subsidy to run buses.

"Chris Grayling has admitted there is poor public transport. What his department is doing, it seems, is supplying bicycles to get to work. Wouldn't it be better to provide a public transport system rather than give people bicycles?"

In a letter to Mr Wilson, Mr Grayling said "the matter of poor public transport in Country Durham is a matter for the Department for Transport".

Jobcentre Plus told the MP: "Anecdotal evidence does suggest the lack of public transport is a barrier to some Jobcentre Plus customers taking up job opportunities. We will support customers in any way we can to ensure customers are able to travel to their place of work. At Newton Aycliffe Jobcentre they have a supply of local bus times to assist customers and the flexible support fund is utilised to assist customers with costs in the initial period of starting work. In the case of one customer we are currently considering the purchase of a bicycle."

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