Oxfordshire firms 'unable to help ease cuts'

Private companies in Oxfordshire may not have enough capacity to employ people who lose their public sector jobs, an economics expert has warned.

Chairman of Oxfordshire Economic Partnership Frank Nigriello said small firms would not have jobs available.

It comes as research suggests Oxford has one of the highest number of employees in vulnerable sectors.

The BBC-commissioned study, carried out by Experian, ranks the resilience of council areas to economic shocks.

In the research, Oxford was rated the third highest in England for the number of employees working in vulnerable sectors.

Figures from the government estimate 48% of jobs in Oxford East are in the public sector.

Mr Nigriello said Oxfordshire had very few large companies, with many people employed in the county's pioneering health services, as well as research and development, including Oxford University.

He added: "If there are massive cuts in the public sector, then Oxfordshire's private sector won't have the resilience.

"Small businesses don't have the opportunities or availability of jobs."

The Oxfordshire Economic Partnership (OEP) is a company formed by a number of business people in the county to help promote enterprise.

The research also suggests Oxford has few self employed people, but that the working-age population were highly skilled.

In South Oxfordshire, according to the Experian research, the situation was different, with the 11th highest proportion of those self employed in England.

Mr Nigriello, who works for Unipart in Cowley, suggested the private sector should be willing to assist the public sector in making changes to their organisation.

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He said: "Private sector companies would be foolish not to help.

"While we may be the engine that creates the wealth, we recognise that we need the services to create the community we want to live in".

Oxfordshire County Council is currently looking to make more than £200m of cuts by 2015.

The figure may be adjusted after the government's spending review next month.

Meanwhile, the research also revealed Oxford is in the bottom five regions of the UK for GCSE results.

South Today will be debating the issues raised in the spending review tonight at 2235 BST.

BBC Oxford 95.2FM will be discussing the research from 0700 BST.

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