> Well, its understandable – these places north of Watford are all the same, aren’t they ?
David Cameron mixed up his Teesside and his Tyneside as he took to the airwaves to talk up economic growth in the region.
The Prime Minister frequently used examples of economic activity in Tyne and Wear – including investment from companies like Hitachi and Nissan – during an interview with BBC Tees.
Oh his third mention of the Tyne, BBC Tees presenter Lisa McCormick intervened.
“You keep mentioning the River Tyne, that’s not our region Prime Minister,” she said.
“I’m sorry, we are the River Tees, does that mean that you’re forgetting about us?”
For a moment Mr Cameron seemed flustered as he paused.
“Oh, I thought I was doing – oh no absolutely not,” he replied.
“I mean, if I look specifically in terms of the Tees Valley, we’ve got £90m from our local growth fund to boost economic growth.”
It might have been a swift recovery from the PM – but it was not quick enough for some.
Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland‘s Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop seized the chance to attack Mr Cameron.
“In isolation this may just seem like a somewhat silly mistake, yet over the last four years we’ve had a Tory peer calling the region ‘desolate’, frequent misspellings of Teesside in official Number 10 letters, and now the Prime Minister himself can’t even take the basic cue of appearing on BBC Tees to get the hint that our river is the Tees and not the Tyne,” he said.
“This just highlights how David Cameron is out of touch and completely uninterested in places like Middlesbrough, Stockton, Redcar, Hartlepool and East Cleveland.”
UKIP’s North East MEP Jonathan Arnott also took the opportunity to bash the PM.
“This is not just embarrassing for the Prime Minister but also what’s left of the Conservative party in the North East of England,” he said.
“Whilst unemployment figures are going down elsewhere around the country, ours are still going up.
“Perhaps if he knew which area he was talking about, people might have more confidence that he actually cares about local people.”
Defending Mr Cameron was Conservative MP for Stockton South, James Wharton.
“No excuses, but I suspect he was doing a round of local interviews one after the other and these things can happen,” said the MP.
“I will be reminding him when I next see him not only how great Teesside is but of all the things this government has done for the south of our region, from bringing Hitachi to the return if steel making and the announcement of over £90m in local investment only a few weeks ago.
“I am proud of our record of delivering for this area and I am sure the Prime Minister is too.”
The chairman of the Redcar Constituency Liberal Democrats, Councillor Josh Mason, added:“The slip-up by the Prime Minister does not take away from the fact that since 2010 our area has received over five times more government investment per year than it did under the previous Labour government.
“It remains more important than ever for us to keep pushing for more investment and banging the drum for Teesside to ensure it remains on the government’s radar.”
The Prime Minister’s office declined to comment.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 25 July 2014
> Its only a couple of months since we were being told that the automotive sector, based mainly around Nissan and its suppliers, were the way forward for employment locally.
I commented at the time that this “eggs-all-in-one-basket” approach was previously applied to the advent of call centres, and that didn’t work out too well.
This doesn’t herald the collapse of the automotive industry locally, but it does mean more people back on the dole, and probably some knock-on effects on Nissan’s suppliers.
Nissan is to cut hundreds of temporary jobs at its Sunderland factory.
The car giant announced today it is to cease 24-hour production on line two at the factory, which builds the Juke and Note.
The move will see the workforce reduced by 365, though the firm expects the number of workers affected to be less, due to staff turnover. The cuts will be limited to staff on temporary contracts.
Nissan has recruited 2,000 people to the Sunderland workforce in the past two years to support a £1billion investment programme.
After making more than 500,000 cars in each of the last two years, 24-hour working on both lines was introduced in January.
But the firm announced to staff this morning that demand no longer justifies running three shifts beyond the summer and Line 2 will return to two-shift operations from mid-June.
“At the end of this period we expect headcount at Sunderland to be around 6,700, supporting two-shift operations on Line 2 with 24-hour operations continuing across the rest of the site,” said a spokesman.
Source – Sunderland Echo 02 May 2014
> Evidently not having lost heart at their candidates piss-poor showing in the Yarm election last week, UKIP now have their sights on Hartlepool (insert monkey joke of your choice here).
General Election planners at UKIP have decided Hartlepool is their best chance in the region, with a relatively strong local branch helping pave the way for an election push.
Labour’s Iain Wright holds the seat with a majority of 5,509, down from the days of Peter Mandelson and a 14,000 strong majority. Back in 2010 UKIP took just 7% of the vote.
But, Nigel Farage said, after recent success in the South Shields by-election, where the party came second despite never standing there before, there would be a General Election rethink after this May’s Euro polls.
It was revealed last month how new academic research suggests Labour’s working class vote is at risk of moving away from an increasingly middle class Labour party, with UKIP making clear they now want to take left-wing voters across the North.
Mr Farage, who was in Gateshead last week, claimed that even an area with as many safe seats as the North was not beyond their reach.
“It’s a Labour heartland, but you know what, we’re having a go,” he said. “Let’s be honest. We are at a later stage in our development in the North East, compared to, say, the East of England.
“That’s because we didn’t quite get over the line in 2009, 15.4% in those elections. Let’s see where we are after these elections.
“We’re fighting more than 100 local election seats, and if, if, we start to win in those we suddenly have a base to build on.
“In South Shields we came second, and it showed how much Labour hate us in the North East. They hate us here, they are scared, they know they represent a different set of interests to the old Labour party.
“We will not win where Labour has a massive majority, but we can find marginals or other seats where we can make a difference.
“Hartlepool is very, very interesting. Watch Hartlepool. It is an interesting seat for us in 2015.
“We have a base there, it is our longest established branch in the North East.
“The North East is our fastest growing membership area, and if I had to pick I’d say Hartlepool was an area where we can make a substantial impact.
“We will have to look hard after the elections at what our targets will be in 2015, but Hartlepool is very interesting to us.”
Last night leading Teesside MP Tom Blenkinsop ( Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) said UKIP would struggle to convince voters in the North to back Mr Farage’s right-wing policies.
> Sadly, I’m not so sure. Many life-long Labour supporters I’ve met espouse personal views that would place them well to the right of UKIP. They only vote Labour because they always have, and their fathers before them, etc – there’s very little innovative thinking or grasp of political theory. It’s a classic case of double-think. And OAPs are often the worst – they’ve got theirs, now they want to pull the ladder up behind them.
The Labour MP said: “Nigel Farage says he’s ‘the only politician keeping the flame of Thatcherism alive’.
“He should tell that to the steel workers of Hartlepool and the rest of Teesside that numbered 25,000 in 1987, and only numbered 5,000 by 1992.
“Or maybe the mining communities of County Durham and Northumberland.
“If you want to know about UKIP, look at how Farage has employed Neil Hamilton in a senior party role, a man who took brown paper envelopes full of cash to ask questions in parliament.
“Farage supports privatising the NHS. He wants to cut maternity rights for women, and he wants to privatise chunks of our education system.
“He sounds like a Thatcherite Tory, he looks like a Thatcherite Tory and of course he tried six times previously to be a Thatcherite Tory MP.
“I’m very sure that firms like TATA, Nissan and Hitachi would be more than a little bit concerned at a follower of Farage’s getting into any position of representation in the North East.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle 27 April 2014
A new super council will be formed on April 1, allowing the North East to compete for millions of pounds in Government funding.
After months of internal rows and territorial battles, the North East’s seven council leaders have secured Government backing to form a Combined Authority.
The move means, for example, that decisions over major transport and jobs investment in Northumberland or Newcastle must be made only after the views of the other council leaders have been taken into account.
There will be no changes to local councils, with voters still electing their local councillor and the same group collecting bins and looking after those in care.
> But we won’t get to vote in matters directly involving this super council ?
But behind the scenes the North East Combined Authority will be seen as the lead voice for the region in Whitehall.
The seven leaders, and their chief executives, will share decision making over skills, transport and investment, have the chance to secure control over any devolved Government budgets and a say in how the region bids for the £2bn Government Growth Fund.
> And no doubt they’ll also share an extra wad in their pay packets.
Cities minister Mr Clark has told MPs he thinks it is “a huge advance in the North East” and called for council leaders, MPs and other jobs groups to come together to formally discuss with him the next steps for the region.
> And will we – those most affected by any decisions – have any input ?
Former regional minister Nick Brown recently secured a series of regular meetings with the cities minister amid concerns the region’s case was not being heard in parliament.
Last night he told The Journal: “If we want access to the money we have to comply with the Government’s preferred structures, and it is very important that members of parliament are involved and can represent their constituents.”
The combined authority sees Durham County Council, Gateshead Council, Newcastle City Council, North Tyneside Council, South Tyneside Council, Northumberland County Council and Sunderland City Council form a legally binding structure with the power to borrow cash and the responsibility to share risk.
Simon Henig, the Durham council leader set to chair the combined authority, said: “Working together is the best way to promote jobs and growth and to secure devolution of funding, powers and responsibilities from Government.
“We share ambitious plans for the future of our area and we are determined to work together to deliver them.
“We are therefore delighted to receive today’s news from Cabinet Office and look forward to the necessary formalities being progressed so that we can launch on April 1 this year. This is an important and exciting moment in our history and we are ready now to deliver on our ambitious plans.”
Hopes of forming a combined authority had appeared slim earlier this year when Sunderland Council had halted the process amid concerns that Newcastle would hold too much influence.
Ministers, civil servants and council officials put pressure on Sunderland to drop its objections, but it was only once leader Paul Watson secured a stronger negotiating hand on the leaders’ board that it could go ahead.
There were then further delays when Sunderland decided to hold out for a multi-million pound investment package from the Government for Wearside before going ahead.
This Sunderland City Deal, set to see some £50m spent on a new business park based around Nissan, is now in the final stage of negotiations.
> So it’s all decided, signed, sealed and delivered. You had no input, it doesn’t appear you’ll ever get the chance for meaningful input… but then, this is all about the really important people, like councillors and businessmen. Business as usual, in fact.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 06 March 2014
MINERS who broke the strike and “scabbed” can still expect to be blanked in the street 30 years on, according to a former union official.
Alan Cummings, 66-year-old former NUM lodge secretary in the ex-pit village of Easington Colliery, County Durham, explained: “People have long memories.
“There’s very few people talk to them and it split families. But we didn’t have a lot in this part.”
The strike held firm from March 1984 and the village pit which had 2,700 workers was lightly picketed. Then in August things changed.
A power loader named Paul Wilkinson from Bowburn, 10 miles away, was bussed in and hundreds of riot police made sure he got to work.
Mr Cummings, who still lives in a terraced house a stone’s throw from the former pit gates, said: “I have never seen as many police before in Easington.
“There’s only two ways into the village and it was completely blocked off. People couldn’t get in or out.
“After 6am there was vans and vans coming in. Pickets were called back from elsewhere and had to come across fields to get here. The atmosphere was really bad.”
Police and pickets fought through the day and serious disorder broke out when Coal Board property was smashed and cars wrecked.
Mr Cummings said the self-contained, isolated village had been law-abiding and needed little policing prior to the strike.
The treatment by officers – particularly those drafted in from South Wales and Lincolnshire – disgusted many locals, he said.
One striker received an out-of-court settlement of £5,000 for injuries he sustained in the protest, the ex-NUM official said. But it was a “hollow victory”.
“Miners’ wives and families in the street could not believe what went on – there was a sea-change in their attitude,” he said. “It’s been called a village under siege.”
The strike ended a little under a year after it began and the pit closed forever in 1993 – just short of 100 years since work began.
And Easington Colliery’s reliance on coal meant it was a disaster, Mr Cummings said.
“It’s been total devastation,” he said. “It’s my worst nightmare and I knew it was going to happen.”
Whereas the Germans planned pit closures in their coalfields, “here, they just wiped us out”.
The village had the second-highest percentage of colliery houses in the country and they were sold off to private landlords in the 1990s, bringing an influx of problem tenants and class A drugs.
Seemingly half the shops on Seaside Lane were shuttered and the working man’s club life, once so vibrant, was dying out.
Mr Cummings retained a passionate hate for Margaret Thatcher and did not care that the village’s celebration of her death last year upset some.
“What an epitaph she has in these mining communities: death, a lot of people have committed suicide, and no hope.
“All down to her, and some of her spawn that’s about now.”
But he also laid blame at the door of New Labour, which he said failed to make enough impact during its time in power.
Now those who have jobs work in call centres, for Railtrack, the Nissan plant at Sunderland or the Caterpillar plant in nearby Peterlee.
“But 99 per cent of them would come back to the pit if it was open,” he said.
Source – Shields Gazette, 03 Mar 2014
The number of advertised job vacancies grew by 3.1% between December 2013 and January 2014, with the total number of available jobs across the UK now at 768,104 and expected to exceed 800,000 by the end of February 2014, according to research by Adzuna.co.uk seen by the Welfare News Service (WNS).
The headline figure represent a 14% increase on this time 12 months ago and research suggests that the apparent rise in advertised job vacancies is at least partly due to a strengthening manufacturing sector, which now employs around 2.5 million people across the country.
> Although the the apparent rise in advertised job vacancies in my Jobcentre appears to be because there are so many self-employed, commission-based non-jobs.
In particular, significant growth in the UK’s car industry accounted for 10,012 advertised vacancies in January 2014 – triple the number advertised in January 2013 and experts predict that UK car production will reach record levels by 2017, creating even more jobs. The UK’s largest car manufacturer, Nissan, has started production on a new factory in Sunderland, providing jobs for more than 7,000 people.
> For some people. It’s generally understood locally that you have no chance at all of getting a job at Nissan if you’re aged over 30.
And we’d better hope that Nissan don’t decide they can make more profits elsewhere in the world and up sticks, thereby creating a domino effect amongst their suppliers.
I never feel putting all your eggs in one basket is a good idea, but it keeps happening. A few years ago, call centres were the way ahead for the region – until they decided to relocate overseas.
Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, said:
“Manufacturing will play a key role in the rejuvenation of the British economy. It will help to increase the productivity of the country’s labour force, and help us catch up with our overseas competitors. The Bank of England has cited that greater economic productivity is needed to validate wage expectations, and manufacturing is one of the key vehicles to drive this forward.”
He added: “While the booming car industry is fuelling vacancy growth around the UK, the real future of the UK’s manufacturing industry lies in new technology. Manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing could remove the need for many elements in supply chains, bringing large parts of production back to the UK and increase demand for skilled labour in the industry.”
Despite an increase in the number of available jobs in the UK, the North-South divide remains. Nine of the top ten cities to find a job in January were concentrated in the South, while seven of the worst ten cities to find a job were in the North.
Cambridge is the easiest place to find work, according to Adzuna’s research, where jobs outnumber jobseeker’s four to one. This is in stark comparison to the Wirral where an average 27.28 people are applying for each job vacancy in the city.
Andrew Hunter said:
“It’s vital that government initiatives attempt to bridge the gaping North-South split in the jobs market. Encouraging manufacturing will have a positive effect on the whole economy, but it could further separate North from South. The North is home to British car manufacturing, and a collection of Jaguar Land Rover production plants are based in the Midlands. But our high-tech manufacturing plants are clustered in the South, with Cambridge and Guildford two key epicenters. It is this type of highly skilled manufacturing which we are re-shoring back to Britain. Once again, it will be the South that benefits the most.”
> So, no change there then.
Unemployed people looking for work will welcome news that the jobs market appears to be improving. However, the news for salary levels isn’t as positive.
> More advertised jobs does not necesserily mean more good jobs. It might – from my personal experience as someone looking for work – just mean more non-jobs, part-time work and zero-hour contracts. Remove all those and what do your figures show then ?
I certainly haven’t noticed many jobs advertised in the car industry locally
The average advertised salary fell by 1% to a 17-month low in January 2014 and now stands at £32,011 per annum, according to Adzuna.
Figures show that wages have fallen 4.6% since January 2013, which in monetary terms equates to a drop of £2,181 in advertised salaries, Adzuna say.
Source – Welfare News Service, 27 Feb 2014
Blame the teachers time again –
Schools failing to prepare North East pupils for career in automotive sector
– declares the headline in the Newcastle Journal, and continues:
Schools are failing to encourage children to consider a career in manufacturing – and the economy of the North East may suffer as a result, a major new study has found.
Pupils in Sunderland are not being given the advice they need to make an informed choice about their future career, said think tank IPPR North, with girls in particular failing to consider careers in science, engineering or technology.
Researchers from IPPR North worked with two schools in the city to examine the attitudes of pupils towards a career in manufacturing, and particularly in the automotive sector.
As part of the study, they arranged for pupils to visit Nissan’s factory in Sunderland, and asked them whether this had changed their attitudes towards manufacturing.
The think tank warned: “Employment avenues for young people are not being closed off so much as never being opened. A systemic lack of interaction between schools and businesses is restricting the career options of young people in Britain.”
The failure to interest girls in science, technology, engineering or maths – the so-called STEM subjects – was robbing the sector of potential future employees, said the report.
> With such high levels of local unemployment ? Pull the other one ! There is probably going to always be be more people than there are jobs, so hardly a lack of potential employees. Many of them will already have the necessery skills, and if they haven’t they could learn them… if the employers were willing to invest in a little training, of course. But that would probably bite into short-term profits.
It warned: “The lack of interest in post-GCSE STEM subjects and vocational education among girls is a cause for concern given that skills shortages in these sectors are looming.”
IPPR focused on the automotive sector because of its importance to the economy of the North East – and it said there is “evidence to suggest the automotive sector would continue to grow in the coming years”, making it even more significant. Around 1.5 million cars and commercial vehicles and three million engines are produced annually in the UK, and 70% of vehicles manufactured here are exported.
> Hmmm… and its not so long ago that call centres were being touted as the big new thing. Which they may have been momentarily, but as soon as the companies found they could transfer the work to low-wage (and thus higher profit) economies overseas, you didn’t see them for dust. Anyone want to bet the automotive sector wouldn’t do the same if it was deemed profitable ?
Nissan’s plant in Washington is Europe’s most productive car manufacturing site, responsible for one in three of all cars produced in the UK.
> It’s also generally understood locally (but unprovable) that Nissan don’t employ anyone over the age of 30. Not much hope for the older unemployed there.
However, the think tank warned that manufacturers were concerned about the lack of available skilled labour in the UK, which could limit future investment in the country.
> People aren’t born with the skills for a particular industry fully formed. What’s wrong with the companies involved training workers to the required level ? They always used to.
It also pointed out that “pay tends to be significantly higher for graduate engineers than for most other graduates”, but young people considering their future career were not aware of this.
> But not everyone can be a graduate engineer, nor is that the only job in manufacturing. Perhaps kids realise this. Or perhaps they just think there’s more to life than selling their souls to an industry that may up sticks and move abroad if they think it in their interests.
The study warned: “Given the importance of both good careers advice and business-school interaction in shaping the choices that young people make, it is essential that Government, schools and businesses take action to plug future skills gaps and change the perceptions of those who might potentially be attracted towards careers in the automotive industry, and in engineering more widely.”
> School are like government training schemes – you might get a nice certificate, but it does not prepare you for the world of work. But why blame the schools, it’s not their role to provide factory fodder, surely ?
Once again we seem to be rushing to put all the eggs in one basket – mining, shipbuilding, call centres, automotive … in a year or two the same claims will be made again about the next transient industry, and all the unemployed automotive workers will be told they dont have the right skills and so must retrain…and so on ad infinitum.