Pre-Budget statement: 60,000 extra places in New Deal

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A BIG extension of the Government's New Deal programme was unveiled by the Chancellor with the creation of 60,000 extra places for the long- term unemployed.

Declaring that he was determined to give those out of work "a new sense of hope", Mr Brown said he wanted to build on the success of the scheme.

Ignoring criticism from Tories and some businesses that the New Deal was an expensive public relations exercise, he said the project was a vital plank of the Government's Welfare to Work plans.

More than 300,000 people will have benefited from the scheme by next April, he said, and 29,000 companies had signed up to give 30,000 jobs that would not have been on offer.

More than 60,000 new opportunities would be created at the end of this month when the New Deal programme for the long-term adult unemployed would start up in 28 areas of the UK, Mr Brown said.

The New Deal skills shortage scheme, announced in the Budget in March, would also be extended nationwide in a move to match employers' needs to the labour market. The scheme will provide support for training to help to fill the vacancies that come on stream in job centres every month.

Mr Brown also revealed that 120 information technology centres will open next March to offer computer training to the unemployed.

To cement the peace process in Northern Ireland, all men and women who have been jobless for more than 18 months will also be guaranteed job placements or training.

"Just as the Government is modernising our industrial economy, so too we are modernising employment policy," he said. "We are now ready to extend the New Deal."

Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservative social security spokesman, said that Mr Brown had revealed little that was new and tried to use "smoke and mirrors" to present the New Deal as a success.

"In fact for many of the people they claim have benefited, most would have returned to work anyway," he said.

Damien Green, the Tory spokesman on employment, attacked the plans as just the latest stage in the Government's failed attempt to make the scheme work.

"Businesses have been extremely disappointed with what they have seen of the New Deal," he said. "There is increasing cynicism among both business and the young unemployed, so extending it is likely to lead to even wider cynicism."

The Department for Education and Employment says that 30,000 youngsters have so far secured new jobs, with 21,000 of them unsubsidised, with a further 50,000 young people being trained or educated.

However, the Tories say that 80 per cent of the jobs offered by business remain vacant and four out of 10 young unemployed leave the scheme without any positive results.

Paul Waugh