85 jobs lost in a month in East Antrim

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MORE people were made redundant in East Antrim in October than in any other constituency in Northern Ireland, it has emerged.

The latest unemployment figures show that there are currently 1,839 outstanding redundancies in the province (proposed but not confirmed), which is 141 per cent higher than this time last year when it was 762.

And East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs warned that the figures are “likely to get worse” due to the financial plight of Ballymena-based firm Patton.

The Ulster Unionist representative said: “For the month of October, more people (85) were made redundant in East Antrim than in any other constituency in Northern Ireland. This is undoubtedly related to the job losses at FG Wilsons.

“It is a sobering thought that as bad as the current figures are, they are likely to get worse with the additional impact of Patton going into administration and the knock-on effect on local employees and sub-contractors.

“Last week, I met sub-contractors who highlighted the plight of a number of small and medium businesses totalling over 2,000 employees and who are owed in the order of £15m from Patton.

“The Ulster Unionist Party believes that the NI Executive needs to encourage more public/private infrastructure projects at this point in the recession. We have also been lobbying for a reduced VAT rate for the repair, maintenance and improvement of existing dwellings to specifically help the construction industry. I am pleased that the Assembly backed both of our policies, and I hope that Ministers will now take action.

“Building improved health and care centres to replace those sub-standard centres would provide local jobs, improve local care and take some pressure off our struggling hospital accident and emergency services.”

About 3,600 people have been added to the claimant count in NI over the last 12 months at a time when the figure has been decreasing for the UK as a whole, and Mr Beggs warned that the province “cannot afford to fall further behind”.

He added: “Every month in Northern Ireland a bad situation seems to be getting worse. The seasonally adjusted claimant count rate in NI (seven per cent) was higher than the UK average rate (4.8 per cent) and was the second highest rate among the 12 UK regions. This is the 31st consecutive month that NI has had the highest or second highest UK region unemployment rate. It is all too easy to talk about these figures as if they are some kind of abstract statistic and lose sight of the fact that they represent real people and real families suffering real hardship.

“The Stormont Executive needs to utilise every possible tool available to try and minimise the impact of the current situation and aid recovery as soon as possible. Some things are outside the control of Stormont, but a decision on the devolution of Corporation Tax must be made as soon as possible, one way or the other.”