Norfolk's plea to George Osborne on jobs growth
PUBLISHED: 12:25 01 March 2011 | UPDATED: 15:52 01 March 2011
Chancellor George Osborne is facing grassroots pressure to do more to kickstart growth in the economy amid fears that hundreds of public sector workers facing the axe could be left on the scrapheap.
In Norfolk hundreds of council workers and NHS staff are facing the prospect of redundancy as public spending cuts start to bite and plans to overhaul local health services come into effect.
But with the chancellor set to deliver his budget on March 23, and figures showing the economy shrinking by more than predicted, there are growing calls for him to do more to stimulate job creation.
The move comes amid fears that many ex-public sector workers could struggle to find work, amid signs that many firms in the region are loathe to take them on.
One leading business figure told the EDP that recruiting public sector staff was “a nightmare” because applicants described their skills in “council jargon”, while in another case a firm rejected an application for a middle management post from one former NHS Norfolk worker because of their perceptions of the organisation as a bureaucratic quango.
A recent Barclays Corporate Job Creation survey also found almost two thirds of businesses in the region would not be prepared to take on public sector workers who had lost their jobs through spending cuts, while 40pc believed they were not suitably skilled.
County council leader Derrick Murphy called on the government to do more to help make public sector staff make the transition, and backed moves such as giving tax breaks to firms to encourage them to take on new staff.
County Hall is pressing ahead with the biggest cuts plans in a generation, shedding 1,000 workers in the next 12 months as part of a three-year plan to bridge a £155m funding gap following government funding cuts.
Mr Murphy said he was hoping the chancellor would include measures in the Budget which could help boost the private sector as a while and help absorb the former council workers looking for jobs.
“We need help,” Mr Murphy said. “There may be people looking for jobs, but the reality is they may not be in the right places, or do not have the right skill sets.”
“Because of the pain we have gone through, any help they are willing to give us is going to be looked at favourably by us,” he added. “We have got staff who will be looking for jobs, they will need help and assistance. There may be some sort of transitional arrangement in terms of help and guidance to help people go from one to the other.
“I am concerned that through no fault of their own, we have people who have been made redundant, and there might be a mechanism to get them back into work as soon as possible. The idea is to somehow incentivise the private sector to take on more workers,” Mr Murphy said. “I am not in the blame game as I don’t think it gets us anywhere. The word is where it is, and we have got to make the best of it. I am mindful of the difficulties George Osborne has got, but we have all got a difficult job.”
Caroline Williams, chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said it was down to individuals to make an extra effort to convince potential employers that they are the right person for the job.
“I don’t think it’s clear cut,” she said. “You have to get down to the skills of the individual. I think it’s wrong to pigeonhole people. The more you talk up the divide, the harder it’s going to be. If someone is innovative, they have good skills and they are willing to do some research in the business they are applying for, and show they care about and are not just looking for a job, I think they have got as much chance of getting to an interview stage as anybody else.”
“Businesses are looking for the best person for the job, so individuals from the public sector need to learn how best to sell themselves and use the language understood by business when explaining their skills.”
Alison Birmigham, from Norfolk County Unison, said: “Most local government workers have transferable skills, but I still think it will be difficult to find employment in the private sector, simply because there is going to be less jobs about,” she said. “It’s a cultural challenge, but I don’t think it’s insurmountable to anybody who is dedicated to doing a good job.”
Dr Kevan Williams, from the Norwich Business School at the University of East Anglia, who has worked in both the private and public sectors said he was considering offering specialist training courses for those looking to make the switch from the public to private sector.
“There may be some fears of the cultural differences at the time a CV is sent in, but I suspect they aren’t entirely well-placed,” Dr Williams said.
“I think the differences are with smaller businesses, where you have individuals making decisions and they want to move faster. I find it quite frustrating when people say one is better than the other because they have just evolved to do different functions.
Issues such as managing people and leadership are all the same and I think good HR people will look beyond it. Whether you are running a meals-on-wheels service for a local authority, or a restaurant, they are pretty similar jobs.”