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Task Force aims to help Northallerton recover from job loss blows
A LEADING businessman has set up a task force to try and reverse a town’s fortunes following a mass of public sector job losses.
David Kerfoot, deputy chairman of the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership (LEP), has launched the group following two Government announcements in three weeks that nearly 600 jobs will be lost in Northallerton, with the closure of the prison and Rural Payments Agency offices.
Mr Kerfoot, a Northallerton Prison Independent Monitoring Board member for 27 years, said the group of politicians, Government officials and employment specialists would co-ordinate a response to the “devastating blows”, and would focus on business growth and improving job prospects.
The LEP will also work to establish which firms in the town will be directly affected by the closure of the Government offices and the prison.
The chairman of the Northallerton-based £80m turnover Kerfoot Group oil firm said: “The team at the LEP have long identified Northallerton as being at risk due to the above average reliance on public sector jobs, but this is a major shock with several hundred public sector job losses announced in such a short period.”
The two announcements have sparked mounting concerns over further public sector jobs being lost in and around Northallerton, with the planned closure of North Yorkshire Police’s headquarters at Newby Wiske and further cuts at North Yorkshire County Council’s base in the town.
Mr Kerfoot said he hoped the increasingly buoyant private sector in the area - such as R&R Ice Cream at Leeming Bar, which is set to take on more than 100 staff - would go some way towards providing employment opportunities.
He said: “Overall employment in North Yorkshire has risen 13,000 in the past year, so it’s not all doom and gloom.
“Whilst it’s clearly bad news for those affected, the picture is not as bleak as it might have been in the teeth of the recession.”
Councillor Mark Robson, leader of Hambleton District Council, who will help lead the task force, said the authority had launched an economic study to examine ways of fostering business in the area.
He said: “We don’t want to paint a negative picture of the county town, people are still coming from far and wide to use the facilities and shops and it will bounce back.”
The Ministry of Justice said yesterday (Friday) that it was unlikely a decision on the prison site’s future would be made within a few months and that all options, including mothballing the prison, would be considered.
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