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Government, Business Brace for North West Downturn

John Freeman
Minister for the North West Beverley Hughes has met business leaders from across the North West to spell out the measures being taken by the Government to ensure that the region emerges from the economic downturn stronger than before and to listen to their concerns.

The meetings follows publication of the Pre-Budget Report outlining steps the Government is taking to support the economy, business and households through the current economic challenges.

So far, the Minister has met representatives of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, North and West Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, Warrington Chamber of Commerce and business leaders from across the region and joined the CBI's Regional Council meeting in Liverpool for a discussion on the PBR and the regional economic situation.

Nationally, latest Government data indicates the unemployment rate has risen to 5.8% and the redundancy level for the three months to September 2008 was 156,000, up 29,000 over the quarter and up 27,000 over the year. Across Lancashire, an additional 3,428 people began claiming Jobseekers Allowance, taking the total in the county up to 11,424, a rise of 0.5 per cent. That total includes another 55 people in Fylde and another 169 in Wyre with North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce blaming cashflow problems for forcing many businesses into having to lay people off.

"The Government has used the PBR to put into place a clear set of measures that will support the most vulnerable, help individuals, families and businesses both here in the North West and across the country," she commented.

"The economic downturn has had a huge impact over the last few months - and all of us have a part to play in making sure the region is best placed to deal with the consequences.

"We are building on a strong platform of investment in the North West and I am grateful to the part businesses are playing to ensure we mitigate the worst impacts in the North West.

"The action taken in the Pre-Budget Report demonstrates that the Government has listened to the concerns of businesses and responded positively."

Included in the Pre-budget Report were a package of measures targeted at supporting 444,150 small and medium-sized enterprises in the North West, including an increase in the threshold at which an empty property becomes available for business rates, which will benefit around 76 percent of empty properties in the region.

£350m of the planned growth in the Train to Gain budget between 2008/09 has been re-priortised to provide more flexible training opportunities and a "substantial" package of measures has been implemented the Government claims is designed to ensure that those facing redundancy and seeking employment are helped back into work as quickly as possible, which it's hoped will help with the 48,673 job vacancies that were notified in October 2008.

Measures to support the long term stability of the housing market and to help homeowners facing difficulties have also been announced, along with plans to bring forward investment in new social housing which will help the 8,530 households deemed in priority need.

Across Cumbria and Lancashire 1,320 mortgage possession orders were made between July and September, up 8 per cent.

The Minister has also set up the Joint Economic Commission for the North West, which brings together key players from the public and private sectors to fight the North West's corner during the economic downturn.

Click here for Official "Work Deprivation" Statistics for Lancaster

Picture: Beverley Hughes at the Sapphire Cement Plant in Partington.