Ed Balls attacks government’s youth training cuts in Norwich visit

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has blasted the government's decision to scrap a scheme which created state-funded jobs for young people – after meeting people from Norwich who have been given a boost by the initiative.

The Labour hard-hitter returned to the city of his birth yesterday to support his party's city council election campaign and to visit Construction Training Specialists (CTS), based off Hall Road.

Mr Balls visited the company to talk to youngsters who had been trained there through the Future Jobs Fund – an initiative the previous government introduced.

It was aimed at people aged between 18 to 24, who had been looking for work for a year. They were offered jobs, work experience, or training.

Through the fund, CTS has equipped a number with the skills to help them get a career in construction and Mr Balls said the coalition government's decision to scrap it a year early made no sense.

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He said: 'Twenty years ago, in the 1980s, when youth employment went up after the recession, there was no support for people who wanted to work, which scarred a whole generation. We said that should not be repeated and the Future Jobs Fund has helped thousands to get experience and jobs, which helped us bring youth unemployment down.

'The new government has taken a different approach and I think it's the most short-sighted thing to get rid of the Future Jobs Fund.'

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One of the young people Mr Balls met was Maureese Poll-White, 22, from Norwich, who completed his six months with CTS yesterday and hopes to become a plumber.

He told the shadow chancellor: 'At first I wasn't too sure about it because I didn't think I would get much out of it, but it has been really good.

'I had really low confidence before I came here and I've now got my Construction Skills Certificate. That was the biggest problem when I was signing on – because I didn't have that.'

Dennis Pollard, director of CTS said: 'The loss of the Future Jobs Fund is a big blow. The guys we have trained through it are now work ready and it would be ideal for them to be put on an apprenticeship to get full qualifications to begin a career in construction.'

But Mr Balls, who also spent about an hour in King's Lynn earlier yesterday, did concede Labour had got it wrong when it came to housing during their years in power.

He said: 'We have lost both Labour MPs in Norwich and we cannot say we were right. We need to listen to what people say and what they have told us is there is not enough housing, the waiting lists are too long and it is difficult for first time buyers. It is something we did not get right and we should have built more homes.'

Turn to page 25 for the latest update on Challenge Norfolk 100 in 100 – an EDP-backed inititative to encourage businesses to recruit 100 apprentices in 100 days.

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