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Friday, 20 June 2008

Is Nottingham's workforce going up in smoke?

Billboards declaring 900 jobs at risk at Imperial Tobacco will have made more than just the firm’s employees gasp.
The news at the Lenton factory comes after a series of large-scale job losses at companies in and around Nottingham.
Economists may argue whether this constitutes a blip or a trend, but for the rest of us it is simply worrying.
When will the next group of workers be called into a crisis meeting? There certainly appears to be trouble ahead.
A study by the East Midlands Development Agency and Experian suggests a further 8,000 low-skilled jobs will be lost in Greater Nottingham between now and 2016.
However during the same period policy makers expect 8,000 jobs to be created in skilled industries such as science and technology.
This is the logic of globalisation.
Vastly improved communications mean production can move to where labour is plentiful and cheap while we take advantage of our well-developed education system and do the technical work.
For a long time globalisation has been a 'turn-off' word, a favourite of policy-makers and politicians when they are discussing issues that seem complex, distant and dull.
Now the consequences of globalisation are blaring out from the billboards and the local paper.
Our ability as a city to meet these challenges will depend in part on the answers to these five rather difficult questions.
- Are local authorities doing enough to get close to key employers to understand their needs and minimise future job losses?
- Are local people prepared and able to take advantage of the opportunities open to them to gain the education and skills they need to obtain a more secure job?
- Are local employers going to take on people who need to be trained on the job?
- Is Nottingham capable of identifying a credible vision for the future and uniting behind it to deliver a more skilled and motivated workforce in a city where those who live here want to stay and outsiders want to come?
- Does the city have the leaders to make this happen?


1 comment:

Robert said...

These won't be the only ordinary jobs to go in Lenton, if the QMC and Nottingham City Council get their way and push through their 'Leengate Master Plan' to create a high-tech bio-science park and 600 seat conference centre in Old Lenton.

Nottingham Regeneration has submitted a planning application to city planners to avoid having to carry out an Environmental Impact assessment (EIA). It will also include '620 parking spaces', but there is no mention of the kinds of jobs which will be lost, nor the kind of jobs which will replace them. If the scheme goes ahead, then the existing Leengate workers will almost certainly lose their jobs and will be unlikely to find new jobs in the new bio-science park on comparable or better pay.

Of course we need more training opportunities, but we also need better paid jobs for those unable to acquire such skills for a variety of reasons. We also need jobs which provide workers with dignity and respect.

It's always seemed odd to me that those who do the menial or repetitious jobs that better qualified people wouldn't want to do in a million years are then considered to be worth less!

I suspect that more highly skilled jobs in the new bio-science park will go to workers living outside Nottingham and only add to local traffic problems. There is also another question which needs answering: How many jobs in the nearby 'Highfields Science Park' are science jobs?

It is all to easy to hide behind 'globalisation' when considering local issues like jobs and skills. Logic says that corporate capitalism will, in a free market, always want to move jobs to low wage countries. At some point in the future it will be the turn of India and China's workers to lose out.

One consequence of 'globalisation' is that the present City of Nottingham, with its tightly drawn political boundary, will become a 'transient city', made up of students and self-improving low-paid workers, who as soon as they have the money, will escape to the surrounding suburbs and countryside. It's permanent population will be the poor, the vunerable and the elderly and this is happening already in areas like Lenton and Radford to name two.

The simple truth is that Nottingham as presently formed has a bleak future ahead of it in the absence of a radical reappraisal of how its manage and governed and, most importantly, what it has to do to create the 'Greater Nottingham City' we all know it should be. It has been spoken about, but nothing has happened because the political leadership in Nottingham and the surrounding local authorities all fear that they will lose what power they have.

My solution, had I the time, would be to organise a grassroots campaign across Greater Nottingham for a directly elected mayor (who could come from anywhere in the UK)to manage the area's strategic needs in partnership with about 25-30 'super' urban parish council to manage local services, each led by one directly elected 'Leader'. These leaders would could manage on their own or with the help of a community council which could be either elected or appointed. The 25-30 community leaders would form the mayor's 'Nottingham Assembly' and could only block his plans with a 75% majority. There would elections every 4 years. The community leaders could run their services separately or in partnership with other community leaders and they could buy them in or run them in-house.

This approach to governing Greater Nottingham would provide both focus and flexibility. Nottingham needs a strong hand with a light touch at its helm and local communities with the freedom and confidence to retain and develop their own local local identities and services delivered in a way which best reflects their needs.

If I could make one decision about training and learning it would be that those who provide and manage these services should live in the communities they serve. All too often colleges and schools are cocoons divorced from the everyday realities of life, especially for those who work in them.