Devastating job losses demonstrate why East Yorkshire must run its own economy, say business leaders
EAST Yorkshire needs to take control of its own economy to kerb the devastating job losses, business leaders insist.
The number of people expected to lose their jobs in the region following a series of devastating announcements in the past few weeks stands at almost 1,000.
Kimberley-Clark has said 500 jobs could be lost after announcing it is closing its Barton factory while 259 jobs at Seven Seas could go after the company revealed plans to move its operation to London.
Yesterday, Comet was placed into administration, putting 200 jobs at risk, and a further 50 are going at McCain.
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Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dr Ian Kelly believes localism is the key.
He said: "It has been a very bad few weeks in terms of job losses – it has been worse than anticipated.
"While we are strategically trying to refocus on new opportunities such as renewables, these job losses highlight the longer period of austerity.
"There have been a number of job losses and problems we can't easily solve locally, which is extremely frustrating.
"But we need to go down the route of localism."
Lord Heseltine's report No Stone Unturned, published this week, makes 89 recommendations to help industry. One of its key aims is to move £49bn from central Government to the English regions to help local leaders and businesses.
The aim, he said, was to devolve power from Whitehall and reinvigorate the big cities. He feels the Government should allocate growth funds through the new Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) that are being established in England in place of Regional Development Agencies.
Dr Kelly said: "We are trying to play the long game and the Heseltine report offers opportunities to take greater control of our local economy with significant budgets coming through the LEPs (Local Enterprise Zones).
"The chamber will be looking at playing a greater role in helping with business support, exports, supply chains and links to education.
"What we have seen with the companies who have announced job losses is that they are run abroad and fundamental decisions are being taken in other countries.
"But we can work more closely with local businesses and create deeper supply links.
"At the end of the day, a man in Whitehall isn't going to find a solution in Hull."
Dr Kelly also feels the Government needs to sort out its green energy policy.
"One of the fundamental criteria we need is certainty," he said.
"We need the Government to clarify its energy policy, particularly on offshore wind farms, so we know what resources are available.
"We have been asked to concentrate on sectors such as renewables, the petro-chemical industry or ports.
"But it doesn't mean we can't take a more complete look at the economy and promote start-ups and entrepreneurship.
"We look forward to negotiating deals and resources so we can create a strong, long-term economy we can be proud of.
"But we need to get back to first principles and control our own economy.
Dr Kelly feels middle-sized companies, which invest locally, could be key to turning round the economy.
One example is shipping firm JR Rix & Sons Ltd, which is on the up after commissioning vessels to transport maintenance engineers to and from offshore wind turbines in the North Sea.
James Doyle, director of Rix Shipping, said: "It is always good to invest locally and we also use local suppliers where we can.
"We are investing in the renewables sector with the purchase of wind farm work boats and we have further orders in place.
"It is a tough environment and it's the same for everyone.
"We need to try to encourage the bigger companies in the area to use local businesses.
"We feel there is light at the end of the tunnel and the renewables sector is something we felt confident about expanding into."
Lord Haskins, chairman of the Humber LEP, agrees local control could be key to recovery.
"I was at the presentation of Lord Heseltine's report," he said.
"He came to Hull in the summer and he seemed very interested in what we were trying to do.
"The ideas he has put forward are very dear to my heart – whether the Government will agree is another matter.
"They have to decide whether they believe local businesses and authorities are competent enough.
"This means we will have to raise our game.
"This region has been neglected for 50 years but now the Government is taking notice.
"We must make sure we put our best foot forward."
There is a sense the Humber region is putting all its eggs into one basket with renewables but Lord Haskins insists this is key.
He said: "We could have a very different picture in the New Year to now if we can get Siemens to sign up, get planning permission for the Able UK green port in the south of the Humber and get the City Deal to give local authorities and LEPS more spending powers."
Lord Haskins believes many of the job losses announced recently have been on the cards for some time.
He said: "Some of the these losses have been long building up.
"Kimberley-Clark has been losing money while Comet has been in serious difficulty for some time.
"I believe some of these problems were there before the current financial climate worsened."
Siemens has delayed signing up to bring a factory to Alexandra Dock in Hull until the new year. The facility would create 800 jobs.
Lord Haskins said: "The job losses makes the need for Siemens even more vital.
"It isn't just about the actual jobs created.
"I believe that, for every job at the Siemens factory, four more will be created in the supply chain.
"The overall economy is getting a little better.
"When there is an upturn we need to be prepared and take advantage.
"The LEP will concentrate on training and improving the skills base to meet demand."