Task force set up after hundreds of jobs axed

Northallerton Prison
Northallerton Prison
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A TASK force has been set up after it was announced that two major public sector employers are to close in a North Yorkshire market town with the loss of hundreds of jobs.

This week it was announced that HMP Northallerton is to close by next March, alongside three others across the country, as part of Government plans which unions fear will put more than 700 jobs at risk.

Last month workers at the Rural Payments Agency in Northallerton were told the department is being relocated as part of Government cost-cutting moves and the operation in the town will close.

David Kerfoot, deputy chair of the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and member of the Northallerton Prison Independent Monitoring Board, said the task force would aim to train people to find new jobs.

He 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.

“However, the team tell me that employment in the private sector is going some way to taking up the slack, as overall employment in North Yorkshire has risen 13,000 in the past year. So it’s not all doom and gloom.

“We are benefiting from moves such as the relocation of R&R Ice Cream’s Leeds plant to Leeming Bar and the team regularly hear from other employers looking to move to, or expand in, the area.

“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.”

Mr Kerfoot said help being made available would include training for those looking to develop new skills, or move into self employment.

Last month workers at the Rural Payments Agency in Northallerton were told the department was being relocated in a move which will see more than 350 staff affected.

However workers will be offered jobs at sites in York or Newcastle, officials said.

The agency helps to make Common Agricultural Policy support payments, traces livestock and carries out inspections.

HMP Northallerton has space for 250 offenders is one of four set to close as part of Government plans which were announced earlier this week.

Ministry of Justice officials say the prison, along with those at Blundeston in Suffolk, Dorchester in West Dorset and Reading in Berkshire, are either too expensive to run or need “substantial” investment,

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said while there had been some “difficult decisions” to make as part of the re-organisation of the prison estate, being carried out with the aim of saving £500m over four years.