Leicester training firm Stride collapses leaving 280 young people without jobs
More than 280 young people have been left without jobs and training courses after an organisation aimed at tackling youth unemployment collapsed.
Stride taught budding bricklayers, car mechanics, beauticians and shop workers from across Leicestershire.
Yesterday, 85 apprentices and 33 staff at the group were made redundant when it ceased operations after its bank account was frozen.
Another 200 students have seen their training courses come to an abrupt end.
It comes after Revenue and Customs officials launched a legal bid to retrieve £200,000 in unpaid taxes.
The move led to Stride's bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, freezing its accounts, leaving the group's directors with no alternative but to close it down.
Deputy city mayor Councillor Rory Palmer said: "This is nothing short of devastating for the city and for those people who are affected by it. Stride did a lot of important work in the city."
Coun Palmer, who visited the organisation's workshops in and around Belgrave Gate two weeks' ago, said: "I'm sure this is a decision and course of events which has caused heartache. We will, as a council, look at how we can support the apprentices in what is a very difficult situation."
The apprentices were due to be paid two weeks' wages yesterday, but didn't get their money. The £16,000 in outstanding payments will be covered by the Government over the next seven weeks. Stride apprentices were aged up to 24, with some of these owed wages of about £300.
Fraser Goodley, 18, of Beaumont Leys, who had been in the middle of a year-long NVQ brickwork apprenticeship, is owed £160.
"I am shocked," he said. "I was close to getting my qualification, now it looks like I'll have to start it again somewhere else.
"There were rumours that Stride wasn't going to be around for much longer. But our supervisor told us the construction side would not close because it made the most money.
"I had just booked to go on my first lads' holiday. I'm annoyed because they would have known before, that things were bad. But I'm lucky because I live with my parents. There are apprentices who are older who have their own places who were relying on their wages to pay for rent, bills and loans. They are in a mess."
Stride was set up in 2000 by city homelessness charity Sharp, which is unaffected by the closure. A sister business, property owner Leicester Social Economy Consortium, is also unaffected.
Stride, which also had 20 apprentices and seven staff in Nottingham, is due to go into liquidation on March 5.
Neil Money, of liquidators CBA, of Leicester, said the £200,000 of unpaid taxes was mainly related to employees' income tax and VAT.
He said Revenue and Customs had launched a winding-up petition.
David Brazier, who is a Stride director and chief executive of Sharp, said: "I suppose I'm annoyed, given the strong desire of governments to promote the training of young people, particularly disadvantaged young people. At a time of such high youth employment, the training we provide is needed more than ever. Public funding cuts, changes to Government financed training schemes and difficult economic conditions have all created problems for us.
"Stride grew rapidly to 2008 and invested in further expansion, unfortunately just before the credit crunch hit."
Building tycoon David Wilson, founder of David Wilson Homes and chairman of Ibstock construction company Davidsons Group, provided funding to Stride in 2009 after being impressed by its training schemes.
"It's a great shame," he said. "They did a fantastic job."
Are you an apprentice affected by the closure? If so call our newsdesk on 0116 222 4241.