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Issue:- 17 November  2011

HELP SAVE SEFTON

THE latest newsletter sent out via Visit Southport has sent out chills through local businesses. We all know that the council budgets are being cut, but the shocking news that one of the options being considered at the moment is:- "the complete cessation of Tourism Services in Sefton / Southport." On the face of it, the move just looks like a small cuts save cash, but what most do not know is how much this department does for the town and how vital a service it is. The lack of a Tourism Department would mean that the council would no longer effectively support Tourism; losing the town all its major Sefton Council backed events like the British Musical Fireworks, Southport Air Show and many others, leaving only the privately run, Southport Flower Show. The loss of these events would have a major knock on effect with the loss of many coach holidays, currently terminating in the town, the loss of many major conferences, The Tourist Information Centre (TIC) on Lord Street, add to that the scrapping of any marketing and promotion of Southport and surrounding areas, including on an international level. Some might question what a loss that would be? But did you know that research conducted by the TIC and also independently have shown that tourism is worth over Ł400million to Sefton, through over 10 million tourist days. This supports over 5,000 jobs directly and many others supporting them! The loss of this small section of the council would see this balance being tipped and massive job losses would happen as a result. You just need to remember the impact that the departure of Pleasureland had on Southport to imagine the likely implications.
Since the loss of Pleasureland, even though this effect has been somewhat mitigated by the emergence of New Pleasureland, Southport has seen a major downward spiral. This was exacerbated by the global economic down turn. As a result there
has been the loss of many of its unique and unusual businesses that the town had become famous for, gaining the epithet:- ‘The North West’s Jewel in the Crown’. Now even many High street names are closing and pulling out. The only major draws left to the town are its events, and cutting the services from the TIC would more than likely see the loss of many of them. At risk are the high profile events, like the Southport Air Show, Food & Drink Festival, British Musical Fireworks Championship and the International Jazz Festival. The cut of just International Jazz Festival, for example, would see the loss around 200,000 visitors annually. Already the cuts to funding to the International Jazz Festival have been heavily felt by restaurants, cafes and hotels around in and around Sefton. The Group Travel, would be lost if the TIC is closed, losing over 5,000 coaches, that bring on average 200,000 visitors per year to Southport. Also coach firms would be less able to market Southport as a destination, because of a significant fall in major attractions. The axing, should it go ahead, of Southport’s Tourist Information Centre itself would be a major blow, as it helps over 200,000 visitors, handling well over 17,500 telephone calls and 2,000 emails. Plus, add to this the loss of Southport’s Conference Bureau could inflict a potential loss of over 40,000 visitor nights per year, which are generated through the coordination and promotion of large conferences. The removal of Southport’s promotion of ‘England’s Golf Coast’ to national and international golf to tour operators and the media, would have a massive impact on the whole of Sefton and the Merseyside area! Visitsouthport.com, handled over half million unique users over last 12 months. Its demise and that of other digital marketing, visitor guide and other print, combined with the loss of representatives attending key travel trade / business tourism exhibitions and a wide range of other marketing activity, would also have a devastating effect. To put it in context, just think what some small regions in France and Spain are doing to step up online and off line promotion of their areas. Back in March 2011 a delegation from ‘Meet the French Tourist Board’, comprising of representatives from all regions of France and even some small towns came to promote France and its online TIC websites to Liverpool and its surrounding area. Our neighbouring city Liverpool has done the same in China, sending representatives to the World EXPO in Shanghai and with China reciprocating. Liverpool has also opened its own Embassy  in London and in other locations, so important tourism is to them! This should demonstrate just how important other places perceive tourism to be to local areas. Our Editor, Patrick Trollope feels that, as a nation, not just in Sefton, we should be stepping up are marketing and not cutting back, following Liverpool’s example and that of many other nations! Tourism is one of the only few international markets that brings in cash directly to local areas. Many other industries direct the cash generated out of local areas and into the hands of international businesses, not necessarily to be reinvested in the local area or even the UK at all. He feels that by having money spent and kept locally, it helps sustain local investment and pride. One local lady said:- "This proposal is short sighted. One appreciates the need for financial constraints, but demolishing the tourist office is like an individual giving up a lucrative job just to save the bus fare to work! It is a panic measure and not a sound economic expedient." Another local business man said:- "Sefton is haemorrhaging major events and attractions at an alarming rate. Just take the Southport Weekender, that is now in Minehead and the loss of Pleasureland and other attractions. Just the loss of the twice yearly Southport Weekender has affected things like the area’s night life, seeing a massive drop in sales from takeaways and loss of custom to taxis and plummeting attendance figures at the town’s restaurants, hotels, clubs and bars! Another example of lack of focus on tourism and the impact that it has on Sefton is the cuts to Ranger and Coastal Management Services, which has affected Southport’s beach. The beach is becoming a major joke, with grass and mud building up on what was once ‘Southport’s Golden Sands.’ There is also impact yet to be felt throughout the area from the cuts to the Arts services. The final blow to the area would be to lose all Southport Sefton run major events that bring in national and international tourism, as Southport is the only place to be able to run these events in the Sefton area. Southport is a major power in the economic stability of Sefton, and that economic power is based on tourism. On the surface it might not look like the effect would have any impact on say Bootle or Crosby, but in reality it would have a major one! How many are employed with the tourism industry or related areas throughout Sefton? Where do the employees of those businesses spend their cash? Without the work done by this small group, the town would in the views of many businesses and my own are that the area will be doomed to an economic disaster." Another timely consideration must be the coming of the Olympic Torch to the region; surely another major to cash in on our tourist potential, but if we do not have a voice, who will do so and how independent would they be? As a result of the review, the TIC has issued an online questionnaire and public views are requested, to try to save the department from closure. "If you have friends or relatives who are regular visitors to Southport - please forward them the link to enable them to have their say. Your thoughts are very much appreciated." said Southport Tourism. We would echo that statement. To fill in the review questions use this web link.

Drastic action needed to tackle rising unemployment in the North West

LIZ Field, CEO of the Financial Skills Partnership is calling for drastic changes to be made to rejuvenate the jobs market as official stats show yet another month of growing worklessness.

Official figures released by the Office for National Statistics show unemployment climbing for another month in in the North West of England. Some 293,000 people above the age of 16 are unemployed. Young people are the worst affected, with unemployment hitting a million for the first time ever. Figures from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) have also revealed employers intend to take on fewer new workers; a move that will slow the labour market further.

Liz Field said that:- "The growing problem of unemployment affecting 16 to 24 year olds is part of an underlying trend that has been present for many months, and the changing tide in education, with fewer people going to university, makes it all the more urgent that the jobs crisis is addressed. Drastic measures are needed to reverse this worrying trend that is rapidly damaging growth prospects of the UK. Although there have been calls for the private sector to provide more jobs to offset losses in the public sector, much more needs to be done to instil confidence among private companies who at the moment are hesitant in bringing in new recruits. Investment in young talent and skills is a strategy with longevity but the young people themselves need the support to be integrated into new working environments. Employers need clarity of understanding of the skills landscape to inform skills investment decisions which will ultimately create growth and empower more young people with the tools to progress."

Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, said:- "The government is betraying the young people of our country. Their futures are being gambled away by a Tory government hell bent on sticking to massive cuts, despite the heavy cost. As their job prospects dwindle, so do the routes into further education or training. Services they rely on such as Connexions and Youth Services are also vanishing; everywhere they look, doors are closing. The government is blinkered to the reality of what its disastrous economic policies are doing to our country. Growth has stalled, unemployment keeps on growing, families are struggling to make ends meet, and young people are losing hope. Plan A is not working, cuts are only making the economic situation worse. The government must act now; time to avoid a double dip recession is running out."

Do you agree? Email your views on this to our newsroom via:- news24@southportreporter.com.

Protest at Virgin Media Liverpool

MERSEYSIDE'S politicians will be joining workers at Virgin Media’s Albert Dock site on Friday, 18 November 2011, to protest at the company’s decision to leave Liverpool meaning the loss of 435 local jobs.  CWU general secretary Billy Hayes; a Liverpudlian himself; will join a group of workers to leaflet the public, get signatures on a petition and display banners with the message ‘Virgin Media don’t be cruel, keep our jobs in Liverpool’.  From 12noon to 4:30pm MPs; including Luciana Berger, Steve Rotheram and Alison McGovern and local Councillors (confirmed include Brian Kenny, Nick Small and Tim Moore) will be leafleting the Albert Dock along with workers and CWU reps.  Billy Hayes, CWU general secretary, said:- "Friday is about a big public display to show how much these jobs mean to people in Liverpool. Over a thousand people have signed our petition already and politicians from across the area are standing up in support of these workers. We want Virgin Media to commit to keeping jobs in Liverpool. Closing the Albert Dock site doesn’t have to mean the loss of jobs from the area; there are alternatives to keep these jobs in Merseyside and that’s what we want the company to look at. Ahead of Christmas any good news on jobs is what these workers are wishing for."  If you want to show your support sign the online petition.  Virgin Media is set to close the Albert Dock site by February 2012 and move the work to sites in Swansea and Manchester making it almost impossible for local staff to transfer.

Apprenticeships reach record highs

THE Business Secretary Vince Cable has announced a raft of new measures to build on a successful year for the national apprenticeship scheme.  Apprenticeships reached record highs in the academic year 2010/11, with Manchester seeing an 77% average increase in apprentice numbers over the previous year. In Manchester Withington constituency, 610 learners took on an apprenticeship in 2010/11, an increase of 75%. Manchester Central constituency saw a 72% increase and Manchester Gorton constituency a massive 97% increase, all substantially higher than the England average of 58%.  The Lib Dems are now looking to strengthen the apprenticeship scheme even further, with an Ł1,500 incentive to small businesses to take on apprentices amongst the range of proposals announced by Vince Cable.

Commenting on the announcement, Manchester Withington MP John Leech said:- "We as a party are determined to tackle youth unemployment and get our economy back on track. Apprenticeships make companies more productive and give young people the experience and skills they need. Small businesses form the backbone of our economy and the announcements by Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, Vince Cable, are very welcome. Young people and local employers should be at the heart of the government’s economic policy and these measures are an important step in the right direction. I have long been a supporter of apprenticeships, and have worked with the Manchester College to promote them. Apprenticeships benefit everyone involved and this record rise in learners taking them up is great news for Manchester and the economy as a whole."

Business secretary Vince Cable said:- "The apprenticeships programme is a success story, with record numbers of learners starting an apprenticeship this year. But I have listened to employers, and will go further to ensure that investment is targeted where impact is greatest, delivering the specific skills businesses need to drive growth."

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