Page last updated at 17:26 GMT, Monday, 12 January 2009

Brown promises action over jobs

Mr Brown said failure to act now would mean a deeper and longer recession

Gordon Brown has promised to help 500,000 people into work or training, as the government attempts to stop unemployment increasing further.

The prime minister said employers would be given up to 2,500 for every person they trained who had been unemployed for more than six months.

Hosting a jobs summit, he promised that communities would not be "written off".

With 1.8 million people out of work, the Conservatives say the government's job package "does not go far enough".

'Not on my watch'

Mr Brown's announcement came as administrators for the ceramics firm Wedgwood confirmed 367 staff are to be made redundant and digger manufacturer JCB announced a further 684 job losses on top of 1,000 redundancies made last year.

More than 400 jobs are also under threat at Findus frozen food firm Newcastle Productions, which has also gone into administration, and another 875 at distribution company Wincanton, after it confirmed two of its depots may close in the spring.

Kent-based retailer Land of Leather also announced it was going into administration but would continue to trade while a buyer was sought.

But, on a brighter note, supermarket chain Morrisons unveiled plans to take on 5,000 extra staff for its store expansion programme.

In a speech at the Science Museum in London, Mr Brown set out plans to prepare Britain for growth in sectors such as environmental technology, advanced manufacturing, healthcare and education.

He said: "Failure to act now and to do so in coordination with our international partners would mean a deeper and longer global recession.

There are fears that three million people could be unemployed by 2010

"It would mean temporary rises in unemployment becoming permanent. It would mean as in the past whole communities written off, and that would mean lasting damage to our economy and a bigger bill to pay in the future. And this will not happen on my watch."

Mr Brown said: "We cannot always prevent people losing their jobs but we can help people finding their next jobs."

He told the audience that people unemployed for three months or more would also get help, including "extensive" job interview training, and would have to sign on weekly for benefit payments.

Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell said of the 500m scheme to help people who have been out of work for more than six months: "What we have learned from previous recessions is we need to make sure people don't feel out of touch with the labour market...

"We don't want to waste a generation of people, as has happened in the past."

Mike Kirkham-Jones
Since being made redundant it's become obvious that the jobs aren't out there. And what jobs there are, an awful lot of people are applying for them
Mike Kirkham-Jones

The Federation of Small Business has launched a five-point plan which it says could create up to 400,000 new jobs.

Measures it is calling for include the promotion of part-time working, simplified regulation and lower taxes.

It also wants to see more investment in apprenticeships and greater opportunity for small firms to bid for government contracts.

Union leaders at the summit will propose more training and job creation programmes, while environmental campaigners want greater investment in energy efficiency.

Derek Simpson, joint general secretary of Unite, said he welcomed any attempt to create new jobs but there needed to be more emphasis on protecting existing jobs, particularly in car manufacturing.

Not far enough

He said: "The businesses are basically sound. It's a question that they have a cash-flow problem.

"Commercial loans are difficult or more difficult through banks who don't appear to be passing on the advantage the government has given them.

"And the government needs to step in to ensure that these particularly skilled jobs are not lost because once lost they'll never return."

In November, the Conservatives called for people made redundant to be able to retrain straight away, while also claiming benefits.

Jobs are created by companies when the outlook looks good for them. When the economy improves jobs will be created
Harry, Reading

Shadow work and pensions secretary Chris Grayling said: "We have been arguing for the government to pay subsidies to employers who take on people who are out of work.

"We therefore welcome today's announcement but what the government now needs to do is adopt our plans for a national loan guarantee scheme to help existing businesses and to protect jobs."

Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesman Steve Webb said: "Six months is too long for many unemployed people to wait before they get help.

"Someone who needs and wants to retrain should not be told to come back in six months' time. They need help immediately.

"Gordon Brown is extending existing programmes which have so far failed. The economy needs new initiatives, not a rehash of old ideas."

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