Row over ‘lack of apprenticeships’ at Portsmouth City Council

Lib Dems say Portsmouth City Council should recruit more apprentices
Lib Dems say Portsmouth City Council should recruit more apprentices
Fellow student Bethany Toon, 17, with Bruce Wetherill, 25, at St Vincent College, Gosport  Picture: Neil Marshall (171028-16)

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A ROW has broken out over whether Portsmouth City Council should provide more apprenticeships for workers.

The authority currently has a target of offering 25 work placements each year over the next four years across its departments.

The city’s Lib Dem group believes the number should be doubled to 50 a year as 50-100 applicants apply for each post that comes up.

But rival councillors quashed the bid at the city council’s latest employee committee meeting, saying the figure was ‘plucked out of the air’ and not based on evidence showing there is enough work available.

Instead, council officers were asked to go away and see how more apprenticeships could be generated and come back with a sensible figure.

Another meeting will be held over the findings in November.

Lib Dem group leader, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, criticised the move.

He said: ‘The Kings Theatre has six apprenticeships a year with many fewer staff.

‘I am baffled why the council, which employs so many more, cannot agree to provide an even 50 a year.

‘We must help give young people the best start in life and apprenticeships are a great way to do that.’

Cllr John Ferrett, Labour leader, said while his group supported extra apprenticeships, they had to be introduced responsibly.

‘It has got to be done in a sensible fashion and it has to benefit people, and not be used as a form of cheap labour,’ he said.

‘It needs to give them the training and experience they need.

‘To come up with hundreds of apprenticeships without figures seems absolutely barmy.’

Cllr Luke Stubbs, deputy leader of the council, said: ‘The Lib Dems plucked a number out of the air and wanted to use that as a target, but we can’t run a business like that.’

A report by Jon Bell, head of legal and performance improvement, shows there are 14 people being recruited, with another 14 having been taken on in recent times.
Priority is being given to young people living in Portsmouth or Leigh Park and Wecock Farm who live in city council property.
Lib Dem committee member Darren Sanders said: ‘It is a shame Conservative and Labour councillors reject tough, but fair, targets for something that gives hope to so many.’