11/09/2013 08:29 BST | Updated 11/09/2013 09:34 BST

Jobless Should Commute To Sign On, Says Tory Thinktank The Policy Exchange

Pedestrians pass by a Job Centre Plus in Soho in London, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011. New figures on unemployment and pay have added to concerns about the pace of Britain's economic recovery. The Office for National Statistics reported a drop in the number of people in work although the unemployment rate of 7.9 percent in the May-July period was unchanged from the rate reported last month. Public sector employment fell by 111,000 in the period, while the private sector added 41,000 jobs. (AP Photo

Unemployed people should be made to commute for up to 90 minutes - just to sign on, according to David Cameron's favourite think tank.

The Policy Exchange, which has close links with the Conservative Party, said the controversial proposal, aimed at people without children, would "boost their confidence of commuting".

The "Commute to Sign" policy was dismissed by trade unions as " just another call to get tough on the jobless."

Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the TUC, said the real problem for unemployed people was a shortage of jobs.

"There's nothing wrong with helping people travel to job interviews, but this scheme is aimed at people likely to take the kind of low paid jobs that could not fund three hours of commuting a day,” she said.

The Policy Exchange's report said the costs of the trips could be covered by job centres, and would be limited to 90 minutes - the maximum commute job-seekers are expected to undertake when looking for work.

Its suggestion has echoes of Tory Norman 'on yer bike' Tebbit - except there is no job waiting at the end of the commute.

Tebbit famously told unemployed Britons that his father had "got on his bike" when faced with the dole.

Previously, the Policy Exchange has said some northern cities are "beyond revival" and urged residents to move south to look for jobs.

Its report, called Cultures of Dependency: Fact, fiction, solutions, said money and power should be devolved to individual job centres to allow them to come up with locally-tailored solutions to getting people into work.

Setting out its plan to commute for the dole, it said:

To give some claimants a broader knowledge of potential opportunities in a wider area, break down perceived barriers around commuting and boost confidence, some single claimants without children should be required to sign-on in JCP offices which are located in areas where more opportunities exist (e.g. town centres within the maximum 90 minutes of travel that jobseekers are required to undertake).

The Department for Work and Pensions declined to support the 'commute to sign' proposal.

A spokesman said: "Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants should do everything they can to get a job, including applying for suitable vacancies up to 90 minutes’ commute from their home.

"Individual Jobcentres have the flexibility to tailor the help they give to meet the needs of their local community, which means that every day they are helping people get off benefits and into a job.”

Gillian Guy, the chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: "In some circumstances it may be reasonable to ask people who are capable of doing so to travel to a Jobcentre but in many cases this simply won't be possible because of sky-high rail prices, poor public transport or high petrol costs."

This is even more difficult for people in rural areas, Guy said pointing out that many claimants would have "significant health and mobility issues"

Labour MP Katy Clark, who represents North Ayrshire and Arran in the Scottish Highlands, said a commute just to sign on, coupled with the "tick-box culture" of the process, would be "soul-destroying".

"My constituents do not need experience of learning how to use the bus system or the trains," she said.

"For most people, that's not the problem they have in obtaining employment."