Two of Britain's biggest hotel and restaurant groups have dismissed Government claims that nearly 20,000 young people on the New Deal scheme have gone into tourism, hospitality and leisure.
The Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) claimed this week that 19,796 18- to 24-year-olds have worked in these industries under the New Deal at some point since the scheme began in January 1998.
Of these, it says, 16,029 have gone on to take regular jobs.
But Simon Ward, head of public affairs at Whitbread, which has 25 to 30 "New Dealers" on the payroll, dismissed the figures as "inconceivable".
He said an initiative with the British Hospitality Association and a handful of other major employers, such as Granada, had so far brought only 400 to 500 New Dealers into the industry.
"This whole project has been bedevilled by different numbers and different ways of counting things," said Ward.
The Government had also given out information about Whitbread that the company said was incorrect. The DfEE said the firm had employed 423 New Dealers since the scheme began, but Ward said the real figure was "nothing like this".
A Granada director, who did not wish to be named, said the lack of hard figures on the New Deal was "frustrating", because it was "hard to find out whether we're doing well or badly".
Ward said the scheme had failed so far to make much impact. "It's very difficult to get anyone. Unemployment has come down - in some of the areas we operate it's at zero - and the calibre of people is not high. We've had a number that have come and gone rapidly."
by Cathy Cooper
Source: Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, 16 - 22 March 2000