Thousands of jobs axed as gloom deepens

Thousands of jobs were axed or threatened in one of the worst days for employment in years.

The grim news came as the government unveiled a multibillion-pound rescue package aimed at unblocking lending to smaller firms and a minister said she could see a few "green shoots" of economic recovery.

Business Minister Baroness Vadera said it was too early to say how they would develop and made clear that she was not predicting the end of the current downturn.

But her comments were seized on by the Conservatives as the growing tide of redundancies brought increased levels of misery to workers ranging from bankers, managers and staff at a home catalogue giant.

Shadow business secretary Alan Duncan said: "Shriti Vadera's comments go to show how out of touch and insensitive Gordon Brown's ministers are."

The biggest losses were at banking giant Barclays, which said it planned to cut 2,100 jobs at its retail and commercial banking business, while car-maker Jaguar Land Rover said it would axe 450 jobs, including 300 managers, as part of a cost-cutting exercise, and Grattan raised fears of up to 3,800 cuts after unveiling "wide ranging" proposals aimed at stemming losses.

Meanwhile administrators for music, DVD and games retailer Zavvi closed another 18 UK stores with the loss of 353 jobs, Viagra firm Pfizer said it will cut up to 240 jobs from its UK workforce, 200-year-old Denby Pottery warned of redundancies because of the downturn in the retail trade, and telecoms equipment giant and major 2012 Olympics sponsor Nortel filed for bankruptcy protection in a move affecting around 2,000 UK staff.

The New Year has started with a swathe of job losses cutting ever deeper into British industry, hitting small firms and household names, with further cuts expected in the coming days and weeks.

The enterprise fund will be worth £75m, made up of £50m from the government and the rest from banks and will be available for small firms which urgently needed equity.

The government also announced an enterprise finance guarantee scheme, securing up to £1.3bn of additional bank loans to small firms with a turnover of up to £25m.

Gordon Brown told MPs at Prime Minister's Questions the government was providing "real help" for businesses to deal with specific problems.

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