Offshore wind farms deal signed by councils

Offshore wind farm, Caister, Norfolk
Image caption More wind farms, like this one at Caister in Norfolk, will be built off the East Anglian coast

Councils in Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex have joined forces to help people in East Anglia find work in the offshore wind farm sector.

Work is due to start on the East Anglia Array, believed to be one of the largest wind farms in the world, in 2015.

It is hoped the industry could create 48,000 jobs in East Anglia in 10 years.

The three county councils' leaders met in Harwich to sign a deal to deliver a jobs and skills package.

Derrick Murphy of Norfolk County Council said it was a chance to "exploit our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity".

Essex leader Peter Martin, said he saw a huge opportunity for the creation of employment, while Suffolk's Mark Bee said working together would bring "nothing but benefit."

The three privately-owned ports at Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Harwich welcomed the councils' agreement, believing there will be sufficient work for all.

Lack of numeracy

The jobs and skills package will range from apprenticeships in areas like engineering and construction, to training for unemployed people to help them into work.

George Keiffer, the chairman of the Essex, Sussex and Kent Local Enterprise Partnership, welcomed the initiative as it would tackle the skills deficit in East Anglia's coastal areas.

He said: "In Yarmouth three out of 10 people do not have functional numeracy.

"Similarly most of the coastal areas also have one in 10 who do not have functional literacy."

Paul Davey, from the Port of Harwich, explained the counties were already benefiting from industry.

He said: "The contractors have a lot of people here. They're in the hotels and the restaurants locally in Harwich, so there's a lot of money that gets spent ashore."

However, East Anglia's ports do not automatically benefit from the offshore wind farms built along their coasts.

The main port for the development is in Grimsby, Lincolnshire.

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