Business plea to help create regional jobs

Regional business leaders last night made an urgent plea to the government to do everything it can to help create jobs as unemployment continues to rise - with a staggering one in five young people looking for jobs.

Cutting red tape, widening the scope of the national insurance holiday and supporting apprenticeship schemes were on the list of suggestions to help create work and stimulate the economy.

Figures out yesterday show that the number of people claiming job seeker's allowance had increased by 1,414 to 17,666 in Norfolk and 5,275 of those were aged 18 to 24.

Nationally, unemployment jumped 44,000 in the final three months of 2010 to just under 2.5m.

Youth unemployment for 16 to 24 year olds stands at more than 20pc, the highest figure since records begun in 1992.

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Barry Dennis, president of the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber was supporting Norfolk business leaders in their call for less legislation and restrictions on employers.

'This is particularly in view of the latest increase in the unemployment figures in Norfolk and across East Anglia,' he said.

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'A reduction in the amount of legislation governing businesses is important, as this will encourage employers to consider growing their businesses, which in turn, could create job opportunities.

'At present, employers face a restrictive amount of legislation, particularly surrounding employment, and any reduction in the amount of red tape can only be of benefit to employers and their businesses.'

Martin Lake, vice chairman of the Norfolk branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, said that regulations and employment law made small businesses more reluctant to take on employees.

'If they think about taking someone on, they take them on knowing it is going to be difficult.

'Small business employers want to keep things small and flexible and under their control. When you employ somebody there are so many obligations to be met,' he said.

With government and council spending being cut back, the public sector is cutting jobs. Earlier this week Norfolk County Council approved plans to cut almost 1,000 jobs, with many more set to be axed by district councils.

Kevan Williams, director of enterprise engagement and external relations at the Norwich Business School, said the private sector is having difficult times too. 'Private sector businesses are going to be nervous about hiring people.'

Dr Williams said that the impact of the recession and widespread job losses meant that the job market had been flooded with skilled people, so young people lacking experience are losing out.

He said though there is a view that unnecessary regulation made things harder for small and start-up businesses, there were positives including training and paternity leave. He is optimistic that as the economy picks up there will be more opportunities for young people.

The New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, which has been set up to encourage new private sector jobs, will be lobbying the government to cut red tape by speeding up the planning process and improving access to finance.

Chris Starkie, chief executive of Shaping Norfolk's Future and a lead figure in the New Anglia LEP, said: ''The LEP sees the removal of red tape as important way of the helping the private sector to grow.'

Andy Wood, joint-chairman of the New Anglia LEP and chief executive of Adnams brewery, said anything that made job creation easier was a good thing.

He said at Adnams they had an ethos of attitude rather than experience and that there were parts of the business that were growing and recruiting. But he could not blame businesses for seeing older, more experienced workers as lower-risk and it had been a 'challenge for time immemorial'.

He said that apprentice schemes were also a way of giving young people experience and skills.

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