A STALYBRIDGE councillor has criticised Tameside Council’s approach to employment, describing the jobs picture in the borough as being in “absolute dire straits”.
Conservative Cllr Liam Billington was speaking following a presentation by Dave Berry, Tameside Council’s head of employment and skills, to the East Neighbourhood Strategic Forum.
He pointed out figures from a study showed 90 per cent of people in Tameside work outside the borough.
“We need more businesses based here and Tameside Council is not doing anything about that,” he explained.
Cllr Billington added the number of companies employing more than 250 staff has fallen from six to two in recent years and the council has not done enough to address it.
He said: “We have had a generation to address it but there is despair as nothing seems to be done.
“Yet the borough is investing in a business park in Rochdale, why not in Dukinfield and Stalybridge?”
Labour’s Cllr David Sweeton disputed Cllr Billington’s comments pointing out the “whole landscape has changed over the last 20-30 years”.
He said: “We have lost a lot of big engineering companies, but there is not anywhere in the country that has not been affected.
“Look at the Nissan and Honda car plants that are to close in Sunderland and Swindon. How will they cope with losing thousands of jobs overnight. There isn’t the cavalry coming over the hill to save them.
“Maybe we had 100 companies with more than 250 workers. Gone are the days when you left a company on a Friday and started a new job on Monday.
“Government policy can close businesses overnight and it takes a generation to recover from it.”
Cllr Billington also pointed to Stalybridge, Tameside’s nominee for Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham’s Town Centre Challenge, adding there is nothing in the proposals for regeneration that will attract employment to the town.
Cllr Adrian Pearce, chairman of the Town Centre Challenge board, explained an expression of interest has been made to apply for money from the Future High Streets Fund to help diversify the local economy.
He said: “The centre of Stalybridge is dominated by retail but also dominated by too many empty shops.
“We are trying to get the infrastructure better and then we can develop employment initiatives for small businesses.”
Mr Berry pointed to the borough having some of the highest broadband speeds, a unique selling point adding infrastructure is a key to a successful economy.
Cllr Leanne Feeley disputed 90 per cent work outside the borough saying she had seen 55 per cent work in the borough.
In the presentation, officials figures revealed the challenges facing Stalybridge and Mossley in terms of employment and jobs.
Councillors and the public were given an insight into employment initiatives in the borough at the neighbourhood strategic forums which covered the two towns.
Mr Berry revealed parts of Tameside are one of the lowest skills areas in Greater Manchester.
Of Tameside’s 140,000 residents of working age, Mr Berry said 72.6 per cent are in employment as against the UK average of 75 per cent.
The number of workless households is 13,300 (18 per cent) as opposed to 14.5 per cent in the UK.
Similarly the percentage of children who are in households that are workless stands at 19 per cent compared to nationally 10.7 per cent.
And 15,100 residents (10.9 per cent) possess no academic qualifications which compares to seven per cent nationally.
There are also 11,500 (8.2 per cent) of residents who receive the Employment Support Allowance benefit due to health conditions.
Mr Berry looked at positive steps being taken to get people into work, such as the careers and apprenticeship exhibitions which have been held at Stalybridge Civic Hall and Hyde Town Hall in recent years.
In the 2018 event in Stalybridge, 1,121 students attended with 90 per cent saying they found it useful.
He added six Tameside HACK initiatives have been delivered to young people to create a digital skills pathway.
Mr Berry also spoke about the Tameside Employment Fund, Tameside Business Grant, Trade Grant, Youth Employment Scheme, Adult Community Education (ACE), Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award (iDEA) and Greater Manchester Working Well.
He also discussed routes to work employability programmes which included jobs fairs – 350 attended one in Hattersley in 2017 and 750 one in Ashton last year.
Firms who have participated include Able Care & Support Services Ltd, BSS LED, G4S Security, Greater Manchester Police, Ikea, National Health Service, North West Ambulance Service, O2, and People Plus.