WIRRAL Council's stance on the new "Help to Work" programme will be decided when more intelligence on the scheme is available, leader Cllr Phil Davies insisted today.

Liverpool Council boycotted the scheme within hours of its launch by Minister of State for Employment Esther McVey, the Wirral West MP.

Jobseekers who have been unemployed for more than two years will now have to sign on every day, undergo intensive training of work for six months unpaid.

Cllr Davies said: "We need to do something to get people back into work – but not to the extent of people having to work for nothing.

"I am trying to find out exactly what this programme entails and if we should get involved before we decide our position.

"I am working with our economic development tea and liaising with the works and pensions department , who co-ordinated this, to see what further intelligence there is.”

Charities including Oxfam, the YMCA and Salvation Army have joined Liverpool Council in refusing to take part in the scheme.

City Cllr Nick Small said: "It is wrong that people should be forced to do so-called voluntary work or face losing their benefits. But it's also not an effective way of getting people back to work."

A Works and Pensions Department spokeswoman said today that 70 local organisations had signed up to participate in the scheme.

She said: "A lot of organisations see the benefits for job seekers and the local community.

"The scheme is about supporting very long term-unemployed people whose main barriers to gaining work will be lack of experience.

"Help to Work will help long-term claimants get the skills and experience to need to get back into work."

She added: "We understand there are people who don’t want to be involved and it is their prerogative to do so.

"But I can't see their lack of involvement making any impact on the programme."