Branson's blueprint to revive British economy

Virgin boss urges action to get young people into work and create growth

Sir Richard Branson is to warn George Osborne that he will create a "lost generation" of young people who will never know work unless he takes radical steps in next week's Autumn Statement to kick-start the economy.

The Virgin tycoon, who writes overleaf, is calling for a three-point blueprint for growth to create more jobs – particularly for the young – and fund new businesses. His wish list includes making it easier for companies to employ workers on a part-time and flexible basis, cutting the time spent at university in half and the creation of a new government body to underwrite micro-finance for people who want to start their own businesses, modelled on the Student Loan Company.

The businessman, whose Virgin Money bought the taxpayer-owned Northern Rock for £1bn last week, will set out his blueprint in a letter this week to Mr Osborne, before the Autumn Statement on 29 November.

The Chancellor is under pressure to come up with radical ideas for stimulating growth when he addresses the Commons. In a parallel move, Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, has told Mr Osborne he must use any additional funding in the growth review to tackle youth unemployment after the tally rose above one million last week. Aides say the issue has become "toxic" for the coalition.

A wide-ranging panel of economic experts today sets out suggestions for a much-needed "Plan B" for growth, amid criticism the Chancellor is refusing to acknowledge that Britain's precarious economic position is not solely due to the eurozone crisis.

Talking exclusively to The Independent on Sunday, Sir Richard said: "We've got to stop this high youth unemployment – there's a great danger of creating a lost generation who've never known work. If you want to take people off the dole then we must make it cheaper for companies to be more flexible. The Government should help companies by offsetting some of these costs. It could transfer money spent on welfare benefits to help companies employ more people."

Unemployment now tops 2.6 million and, according to last week's figures, more than one million young people – aged 16 to 24 – are out of work while the number of long-term unemployed is also rising. But Sir Richard said: "If the Government were clever, there would be no need for anyone ever to be out of work on a voluntary basis. It needs to get the nuts and bolts right and move quickly; everyone needs a purpose to life."

His own research, he says, shows that at least 20 per cent of the working population would like to work part-time, or be more flexible, but are often not given the option because of the cost to the employer and worries over productivity. "It might be that people want to have Fridays free, whatever. Offering staff flexible options is expensive because of National Insurance, the time invested in training and other investments."

University degree courses should be sliced in half to 18 months because, for most students, there is too much time wasted, he claims. "Most students are twiddling their thumbs. Many only get one lecture a week. This is nonsense, particularly with tuition fees so high."

Sir Richard, who left school at 16 to start his first business, added: "I've already told David Cameron that he should look at this."

Third, the Virgin boss said it's crucial to find ways to allow people – especially the young – access to small amounts of money so they can start their own businesses.

The IoS understands that the Deputy Prime Minister has pinpointed unemployed 18- and 19-year-olds as those most in need of help. "If you leave school and go straight on to the scrapheap, your entire work life is affected," a senior Lib Dem source said. "You end up going into lower-paid jobs later in life. So we want to come up with a package for them."

Mr Osborne will prioritise more than 40 major infrastructure projects, including the roll-out of high-speed broadband, the electrification of the Great Western railway line and traffic-blighted sections of the M25. Other ideas include extending the National Insurance holiday for new firms that take on staff from the first year of trading to three years, as well as credit easing to increase the flow of loans to small businesses.

A ComRes poll for The IoS today shows that public confidence in the economy has plummeted: only 23 per cent expect the economy to start showing signs of improvement soon, compared with 67 per cent in June 2009.

In a speech to the Confederation of British Industry tomorrow, David Cameron will unveil plans to open up £50bn of government business to some of the smallest companies in the country.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said yesterday that billions of pounds of government tenders will be accessible online and pledged that departments will be ordered to speed up their dealings with business.

Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
News
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
i100
News
peopleCareer spanned 70 years, including work with Holocaust survivors
News
people
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
News
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Extras
indybest
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Nursery Nurse

£40 per day: Randstad Education Manchester: Nursery Nurse needed in salfordI a...

Nursery Nurse

£25 per day: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery nurse needed in th...

Supply Teaching jobs in Thetford

£21588 - £31566 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

KS1 teachers needed in Peterborough

£110 - £125 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education are ur...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape