Tagged: national average

Budget will only widen north-south divide

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck today claimed George Osborne’s fifth budget would only widen the north-south divide.

 

She believes  Osborne’s statement demonstrated the Coalition Government is “out of touch” with people in the constituency.

She said: “He tried to say that the economy is turning around, but households in South Shields who have seen their wages fall while prices rise month after month will see right through him.

“It’s clear whose side the Chancellor is on. Wages in London’s banking sector are rising nearly five times faster than the national average, and even then he won’t rule out tax cuts for the top earners. Meanwhile, those on low incomes are continuing to see their living standards fall.”

Coun Iain Malcolm, the leader of South Tyneside Council, labelled the budget a “gimmick”.

He said: “The budget was classic ‘smoke and mirrors’, full of pre-election gimmicks. They announced that they would cut inheritance tax for emergency service workers killed in duty – but this only applies to those leaving more than £325,000, so it is difficult to calculate how many would actually benefit.”

Coun Malcolm said new support to build 200,000 new homes was “simply nowhere near enough to resolve the housing crisis facing this country”.

The budget received a more positive response from a senior member of the borough’s business community.

Julie Lightfoot, managing director of South Shields-based Solar Solve Ltd, said: “As a local family-owned business who exports 85 per cent of our turnover, it’s encouraging that the Government is supporting British manufacturers by introducing a £7bn package to cut energy bills

“Although we aren’t an intensive energy user, every little saving helps, although we’ll have to wait and see what the actual savings will be. However, it’s nice to know that half of the firms that will benefit the most by cuts in manufacturing costs are in the north of England.”

Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn said: “This is a government that has pushed down living standards to such an extent it has left working people £1,600 a year worse off.

“Osborne and the Tories only stand up for the privileged few.”

Merv Butler, branch secretary of Unison South Tyneside, said: “The Chancellor should have had the courage of his convictions and stood by his support of a £7 minimum wage. Moving to the Living Wage is the best way to raise tax revenue and put money into people’s pockets. It would boost consumer confidence and increase spending in local shops and businesses.”

North East Chamber of Commerce policy director Ross Smith said: “This was a sensible budget, and the conditions within which North East businesses can continue their strong contribution to UK growth have been strengthened by these announcements.”

Source – Shields Gazette,  21 March 2014

Warning over cuts to public sector workforce in the North East

The North East could be set to suffer from the biggest cut in the public sector workforce for more than half a century, an influential think tank has warned.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies says the public sector outside the NHS and schools could see a 40% cut in its workforce over the next five years if those areas continue to be protected by Government.

Those cuts would disproportionately fall on regions like the North East with high levels of public sector employment, the IFS report says.

The report says the North East is almost “breaking even” with private sector jobs being created to replace lost jobs in the public sector.

But there are fears that further cuts could have a knock-on effect for small businesses.

Luke Sibieta, researcher with the IFS, said the percentage of workforce in the public sector was largest in the North East and smallest in London, the West Midlands and the South East.

The IFS also found private employment rose by more in every region than public employment has fallen since the start of the decade – apart from the North East.

He said: “In every region the private sector is growing more quickly than the public sector but the North East is interesting. In the North East, the private sector just about matched the public sector, whereas in most regions the private sector is by far outstripping the public sector.

“We won’t know exactly what impact this will have until we see what the job losses are.”

The study shows how 26% of people in employment in the North East work for the public sector – a figure 3% higher than the national average and thought to be the reason why the region has the highest unemployment rate in the country.

Ted Salmon, FSB North East Regional Chairman, said: “There’s no doubt that the private sector in the North East is growing and we can’t see any reason why this should diminish over the next few years. Our members across the region are reporting increased confidence and are more optimistic for the future. This should see an increase in business investment and more taking on staff to meet ambitious growth plans.

“The cuts to staffing in the public sector will have an impact on businesses, especially in areas like retail where there will be less discretionary spend. It could also have an impact on small businesses supplying the public sector as relationships built up will be lost and smaller contracts get amalgamated into bigger proposals.”

Ross Smith, head of policy for the NECC, said: “If you look at a whole series of economic projections then it does point to the need for quite significant cuts in public spending and what we need is some real honesty about where they are going to fall so businesses can prepare and plan.

“Businesses here have shown real resilience and we are confident that we can face up to the challenges.

“At the moment we are seeing significant employment growth and that is testament to the strong performance of our businesses because that growth has not come from the public sector.

“The public sector is a big customer of businesses in the North East. It will make a big difference to them if it is a case of turning off the tap overnight but if it is a proper plan then businesses will have a chance to adapt.”

Source – Newcastle Journal   15 Feb 2014

Government Ministers Accused Of Waging War On North East

Ministers have been accused of declaring “war” on the North East as MPs and council leaders gathered at Westminster to plan their fight-back against funding cuts.

> Well it’s taken them long enough ! Have they only just noticed what’s been going on under their noses ?

The region’s Labour politicians warned the debate about funding and grants obscured the real impact of cuts, which was worse public services and the prospect of councils running out of money.

Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland Council, said families in the North East would receive poorer police and fire services than those in wealthier parts of the country.

And the region’s politicians accused the Government of quietly scrapping the long-accepted convention that funding was allocated in part on the basis of need – so areas with higher levels of poverty, a higher proportion of older folk a low skills base or other pressing needs were given the cash they needed.

The change means a council like Newcastle is facing budget cuts while those in much wealthier areas are enjoying increases in funding.

The warnings were issued as council leaders delivered a presentation to MPs in a Commons committee room at Westminster, following a meeting with Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis.

> And they all said: “Bugger me, we had no idea this was going on. When did this start, then ?”

GatesheadMP Ian Mearns told the gathering: “There is a war being fought against our communities and it is being inflicted on us in the most ruthless fashion I can remember in my 30 years in politics.”

North Durham MP Kevan Jones added: “This is a war. They know exactly what they are doing. They are diverting money from our areas to areas in the south.”

A presentation produced by the Association of North East Councils (ANEC) warned that cuts in council budgets in the North East amounted to £467 for every household between 2010 and 2016 – compared to just £105 in the South East.

The discrepancy is partly a result of the Government abandoning the principle of funding based on “need”, which traditionally meant some councils received more than others.

A higher proportion of the North East’s population is elderly than the national average. The region also has more adults who need social care and long-term unemployment, as well as more children in care, all of which would traditionally have meant councils received higher funding.

But ANEC estimates that by 2019-20, Newcastle City Council’s spending power per household will be equal to the money available to a council in a wealthy areas such as Wokingham, in Berkshire.

Meanwhile, Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell, has revealed that a poll of her constituents shows that more than 90% of respondents expect their standard of living to get worse or stay the same over the next three years.

The survey on her website found that 79% of respondents were concerned by energy bills, 56% by food prices and 39% with the cost of transport.

> So now our Labour representives finally seem to have caught on to what’s going down. Question is, what are they going to actually do about it ?

Source – Newcastle Journal, 16 Jan 2014

Youth Unemployment & Mental Illness In North East

More than one in five young people in the North East have experienced symptoms of mental illness as a direct result of unemployment, a new report warns today.

The Prince’s Trust Macquarie Youth Index paints a bleak picture of young people’s mental health and wellbeing in the region, with the report finding that young people who are long-term unemployed are more than twice as likely as their peers to believe they have nothing to live for.

The report comes at a time when Newcastle has seen a 279% increase in the number of young people claiming benefits for more than six months since the beginning of the recession.

Jonathan Townsend, Northern regional director of The Prince’s Trust, said: “Unemployment is proven to cause devastating, long-lasting mental health problems among young people. Thousands wake up every day believing that life isn’t worth living, after struggling for years in the dole queue.

“Here in Newcastle, 795 young people are facing long-term unemployment and there is a real danger that these young people will become hopeless, as well as jobless.

“Our research highlights that unemployed young people are significantly less likely to ask for help if they are struggling to cope. Our message to them is this: organisations like The Prince’s Trust are supporting young people like you every day, helping them back into work, education or training. You are not alone and you need not struggle alone.”

The Prince’s Trust, which works to help young people looking for work, last year worked with 426 disadvantaged young people across Newcastle. It also has a centre in Benwell, in the city’s West End. The charity’s survey found that nearly a third of young people from the city said they “always” or “often” feel down or depressed with the report showing that long-term unemployed people are significantly more likely to feel this way.

One in four young people locally admitted they feel like a “waste of space” – higher than the national average – with the report finding that the long-term unemployed are more than twice as likely to feel this way.

> I wonder why that is ? Just a wild guess, but you dont think it might have something to do with the relentless “skivers not strivers” propaganda channelled through the media direct from the government ? 

Not to mention the treatment handed out by the DWP through its Jobcentres, Work Programme, etc ?

All the stupid hoops you have to jump through, with the possibility of a sanction if you slip up, however trivially ?

It’s enough to unhinge the sanest at the best of times.

The Prince’s Trust is now calling for urgent support from the Government, health agencies and employers to fund its work with long-term unemployed young people battling mental health issues.

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, said: “This research proves that unemployment is a public health issue. It is one that must be tackled urgently and it is essential that youth unemployment is added to the public health agenda.

“Unemployed young people are struggling in many aspects of their lives, from their mental health and wellbeing to their relationships and their qualifications and we must act quickly to end this.”

> Well, maybe they could take a lot of the pressure off by just acting in a humane way, and stop treating the unemployed (of any age) as an enemy that must be crushed at all costs. 

Stop sanctions, start admitting that we are an area of high unemployment and probably always will be…and most of all stop the vile media propaganda.

All easy to do and would cost very little.  But, conspiracy theories notwithstanding, I’m starting to think that the government actually want things the way they are. They have absolutely no interest in improving life for the poorer sections of society.

And they keep getting away with it, so why does anyone think they’ll stop ?

Source – Newcastle Journal, 02 Jan 2014

 

On Yer Bike ! The Ghost Of Tebbit Rides Again

Old Tory policies die hard – or perhaps they (like Labour, LibDems, UKIP, etc) just dont have the depth of imagination to think up new innovative ones.

Whatever, another Thatcherite policy rears its ugly head again. All the way from the days when they seriously considered cutting cities like Liverpoool adrift to die, comes a reprise of Norman Tebbit’s “on yer bike” advice.

An article in The Economist titled Some towns cannot be preserved. Save their inhabitants instead  informs us that –

“Middlesbrough, Burnley, Hartlepool, Hull and many others were in trouble even before the financial crisis. These days their unemployment rates are roughly double the national average, and talented young people are draining away. Their high streets are thick with betting shops and payday lenders, if they are not empty.

“Under the last Labour government these towns were propped up on piles of public money. Some built museums and arts centres in an attempt to draw tourists, though this rarely worked. All became dependent on welfare.

“But there is little money for grand projects these days. And cuts to welfare, enacted by the Conservative-led coalition government in an attempt to balance the books, are falling brutally there. In Hartlepool the cuts amount to £712 for every working-age person. In Guildford, a middle-class commuter town south of London, they add up to just £263.”

So, nothing we didn’t already know. Can you guess what the remedy is going to be ?

“Governments should not try to rescue failing towns. Instead, they should support the people who live in them.

That means helping them to commute or move to places where there are jobs—and giving them the skills to get those jobs.”

Ok, right – so that means we all have to uproot and head for the South East ? And, if/when we manage to scrabble to the top of the heap and win the coveted prize of a minimum wage service industry job, where are we going to live ? Some London boroughs are already enacting what amounts to economic cleansing of the poor when it comes to housing.

Still, perhaps we’ll see the esthablishment of squatter camps outside the city limits, from where those with jobs can be bussed in every day to labour for their pennies.

Actually, the article may have been thinking along similar lines – “…new communities can be created in growing suburbs fringing successful cities. It has happened before.”

It certainly has. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. Finally, I’d like to quote one of the comments published in response to the article, which I think succinctly sums up the problems that the piece’s author evidently failed to forsee –

“The obvious consequence of this article is that you support the people by moving them from “dead” areas to “live” areas like, er, London and the Greater South East. Obviously in leaving a dead area you will get very little for your house (after all it is being effectively abandoned), so you will have to be subsidised in the South – or live on the streets – something I don’t think the locals in London like.

Then of course the problem is London
– The motorways are clogged (despite having more lanes than anywhere else in the country),

– the railways are apparently a hell hole (despite having better rolling stock than the rail-buses we still have where I live and despite getting the Crossrail investment and tube extensions),

– the airports are apparently even worse (despite or possibly because of a hogging of international connections)

– Housing is a nightmare – made worse apparently by immigrants (you wait until the Northerners arrive!)

– Key workers are not available (probably because they cannot afford to live in central London and cannot afford to travel into London)

– There are water shortages (which will probably get worse when the people from Hartlepool, Burnley, Hull Middlesbrough et al arrive)

Actually being unemployed and living on the Durham coast sounds like quite a good life in comparison – and will probably cost the exchequer less than solving all the additional problems London would have if you moved hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people from “dead” areas to London.”

 

 

Economist, 12 Oct 2013 http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21587790-city-sicker