Work is under way to try to help a North Yorkshire market town which has been left shattered by news that hundred of public sector jobs are to be lost in a massive blow to the rural economy.
Yesterday Foreign Secretary and Richmond MP, William Hague, met Hambleton District Council leader, Mark Robson, to discuss the issue as it was revealed a task force set up to try to help the town deal with the jobs losses was starting work.
It follows the announcement last month that HMP Northallerton is to close by March, alongside three others across the country, as part of Government plans.
The news came after workers at the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) in Northallerton were told the department was being relocated as part of Government cost-cutting moves and the operation in the town will close.
Hambleton’s senior politicians are pushing the Government to make a decision on the future of Northallerton Prison.
Coun Robson met with Mr Hague to urge him to press Justice Secretary Chris Grayling for details of what will happen to the site when the prison closes, whether it is to be mothballed or sold on and what the timescales are.
He also outlined the authority’s own regeneration plans for the market town.
He said: “The loss of jobs with the closure of not just the prison but the Rural Payments Agency, is a huge blow to the town but we want to look at the positives and be ready when the prison closes its doors for the last time to start the regeneration process.”
The council leader said £30,000 has been put aside for a major new study of the area to the east of East Road including the prison, fire station, Alverton Court and Crosby Road car park sites and said cash has already set aside by the council for a new economic study – which will help drive forward business investment in the district over the next ten years.
Mr Hague said: “This has been a useful meeting and it is vital we all work together to secure the future of Northallerton. I will be discussing all these issue with the Justice Secretary and will keep in touch with Hambleton District Council and with the local task force.”
A number of partners are involved in the task force which has been launched to ensure that work is carried out to help the town cope with the loss of nearly 600 job losses in 2014-15.
It aims to ensure those facing job losses have the skills they need both to find other jobs and that employers are looking for. It also aims to support those interested in setting up their own businesses and connecting employers to new potential employees.
The first event in this programme will take place at a JobCentrePlus jobs fair on October 17 at Northallerton town hall. It will feature a mix of employers and skills support agencies. A second event is planned for October 24.
David Kerfoot, chair of the task force and who also acts as the deputy chair of the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “It is vital we act now to support those at risk. RPA and the prison have provided Northallerton with an exceptionally skilled and motivated workforce that any employer would be proud to take on.”
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