Family incomes are on the rise in most of the region, official figures show – but at a slower pace than in most of the country.
Household disposable income per head crept up by just 0.8 per cent in the North-East between 2012 and 2013, below the one per cent rise across the United Kingdom.
And the North-East was left in the slow lane by both Scotland (up two per cent) and the West Midlands (up 2.3 per cent) as the economy bounced back, as well as by Yorkshire (up 1.4 per cent).
But households in London and the South-East (both up 0.6 per cent) saw incomes grow more slowly – even though overall growth was far higher than in the North-East in both areas.
The statistics also reveal striking local variations in the changes in gross disposable household income (GDHI), the amount available for spending or saving after taxes and benefits.
Incomes grew sharply in Darlington (3.5 per cent) and South Teesside (2.6 per cent) and were also up in North Yorkshire (two per cent) and Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees (1.9 per cent).
But growth was more sluggish in County Durham (1.3 per cent) – and fell markedly in both Sunderland (3.1 per cent) and York (3.3 per cent).
In Westminster, the average GDHI was £42,221 in 2013 – almost three times the figure of £14,659 in County Durham and the highest of 173 local areas analysed.
And incomes in Kensington and Chelsea/Hammersmith and Fulham (£42,116), Camden and City of London (£37,324) and Wandsworth (£35,237) were not far behind.
Matt Whittaker, chief economist at the Resolution Foundation think-tank, said:
“Regional inequalities have fallen since the crash, but the gap between the South East and the UK is stark.”
Experts believe disposal income – the amount people have to spend after the bills have been paid – is the best measure of the economic confidence of families and individuals.
A UK Independence Party politician is hoping for a winning double in South Tyneside at May’s local and general elections.
Former borough councillor Steve Harrison has already announced his intention to stand as a Parliamentary candidate for Jarrow.
He is also seeking election as a councillor in the borough’s Monkton ward, including the Lukes Lane Estate, where he used to live.
Mr Harrison formerly represented the Hedworth and Fellgate ward in Jarrow, originally as an independent and later for Ukip.
Mr Harrison said:
“I don’t feel the current MP is responsive enough to the town’s public on local issues.
“His concentration seems to be all about Westminster, and he doesn’t challenge the Labour council enough over decisions it makes.
“If I’m elected, I would spend three days in the town and in the ward dealing with issues on the ground.
“I would also open an office in the town centre which would be manned six days a week, from 9am to 5pm, where people can go and have their problems dealt with.
“There are a lot of issues in Monkton that need to be addressed.
“The bus service in Lukes Lane is non-existent. People have been left high and dry.
“The roads and footpaths are a big issue.
“There’s a view that all the spending goes to South Shields.
“A lack of parking spaces, fly-tipping and rubbish generally are also issues that need to be addressed urgently.
“I have lived on Lukes Lane twice. I grew up there and lived there when I got married. I still have family and friends there, and I know the area well.”
Mr Harrison said he had no concerns over any potential conflict of interest in standing as both prospective MP and councillor.
“I have checked out the rules, and there is not problem with standing for both. It’s not unique. It’s a chance to bring Westminster into local politics.”
> Also a chance to claim two incomes, two sets of expenses, etc.
Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn was unavailable for comment about Mr Harrison’s criticisms.
The other candidates standing in the Jarrow Parliamentary constituency election on Thursday, May 7, are Stan Collins (Lib Dem), Norman Hall (Trade Union Socialist Coalition), Nick Mason (Conservative) and David Herbert (Green).
Source – Shields Gazette, 25 Mar 2015
One of today’s main headlines in the mainstream press is that David Cameron is proposing a new law to jail ‘professionals’ who ignore evidence of child abuse. Under his proposals, social workers, teachers, local councillors, and others involved in children’s social care could face up to five years in prison.
In a statement to be made to Parliament today, Cameron will say“I’m sending an unequivocal message that professionals who fail to protect children will be held properly accountable and council bosses who preside over such catastrophic failure will not see rewards for that failure. Offenders must no longer be able to use the system to hide their despicable activities.”
Cameron’s proposal comes in the aftermath of the latest scandal concerning the abuse of young children by a gang in Oxfordshire where more than 300 boys and girls have been trafficked for sex in the last 15 years.
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Hundreds of firefighters gathered in Newcastle for a rally against changes to their pension and retirement ages.
The protest at the Monument today formed part of a national 24 hour stoppage in the long running dispute over Government proposals the Fire Brigade Union described as “unworkable”.
Officials say that under the government’s plan, firefighters will have to work until they are 60 instead of 55, pay more into their pensions and get less in retirement.
The latest industrial action in the four year dispute followed claims by the FBU that fire minister Penny Mordaunt had mislead parliament over the matter.
It says in a parliamentary debate last December she gave a guarantee that any firefighter aged 55 or over who failed a fitness test through no fault of their own should get another role or a full, unreduced pension.
The union said fire authorities across the country had failed to back up the minister’s “guarantee”.
However a Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said:
“We have been clear that firefighters get an unreduced pension or a job and have changed the national framework through a statutory instrument to do so.
“If fire authorities do not produce processes which yield this, the Secretary of State has said he will intervene.”
In Newcastle, Pete Wilcox, regional secretary for the FBU in the North East, said:
“We don’t want to be taking action because we’re aware of the consequences as we deal with them day-in and day-out.
“But we have been misled. The government talked of giving guarantees to those who fail a fitness test through no fault of their own to get an unreduced pension. Then it spoke of setting up an appeals process on it. Why do you need an appeals process when there’s supposed to be a guarantee?”
He said improvements to pension arrangements had been made in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland which meant no strike action was taking place there.
Mr Wilcox added: “We hope the Government will be back around the table and start negotiating again.”
As well as the firefighters and their families who attended the Newcastle rally, representatives of other unions including Beth Farhat, Northern regional TUC secretary, turned up to give their support.
The strike began at 7am on Wednesday and saw pickets at fire stations across the North East.
Meanwhile a number of North East FBU members joined thousands of colleagues in London for a lunchtime rally in Westminster addressed by MPs and union officials.
Firefighters later lobbied MPs for support in their campaign against changes to pensions and retirement age.
The Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman added:
“Strike action is unnecessary and appears to be over a point which is a vast improvement on the 2006 scheme which required firefighters to work to 60 with no protection.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 25 Feb 2015
A “Westminster elite” of Labour MPs look down on people with Northern accents, a politician from the region has claimed.
Wansbeck’s Ian Lavery, himself a Labour MP, said that when MPs hear his North East accent they think “that man doesn’t know too much” and claimed his party has too many politicians who haven’t worked “on the factory floor”.
But he today claimed the remarks were not a criticism of party leader Ed Miliband – saying they were about getting more working-class MPs into Parliament.
The Northumberland MP was recorded making the remarks at a conference on social mobility in London organised by the think-tank Class.
“I’ve got to say there are some superb Labour Party MPs,” he was reported to have said.
“Sadly, there’s not enough MPs who’ve actually worked on the coalface, on the factory floor.
“We haven’t got enough ethnic minorities, we haven’t got enough disabled people in, who have actually been there.
“We’ve got an elite in Westminster which, quite frankly, frightens me.
“They haven’t been anywhere or done anything, and when you’ve got an accent like mine, they think ‘Well, that man doesn’t know too much’.”
Mr Lavery, a former president of the National Union of Mineworkers, said some national media had “willfully misrepresented what I said” and stressed that he fully supports Mr Miliband as his party’s leader.
“My comments were about the need for more working-class MPs and in no way a criticism of Ed or his office.
“For the record, I believe s absolutely the right man to bring in policies that will be of great benefit to people in the North and across the country.”
It comes after former Prime Minister Tony Blair appeared to criticise Labour leader Mr Miliband.
The ex-Sedgefield MP told The Economist that May’s General Election was shaping up to be one “in which a traditional left-wing party competes with a traditional right-wing party, with the traditional result”.
> Sounds good – remind me, which is the left-wing party ?
Asked if he was implying that the Conservatives would win, Mr Blair is reported to have said yes.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 01 Jan 2015
The region’s MP’s reacted angrily to David Cameron’s plans for a constitutional revolution after Scotland rejected independence – accusing him of a political fix.
Labour MPs warned the plan – “English votes for English laws” – would strengthen the influence of the Conservative heartlands over Westminster, while doing nothing for the North-East.
> Well ? Did anyone seriously expect anything different ?
And they demanded the overhaul instead focus on devolving power down from Westminster, in parallel with firm promises already made to Scotland on tax and spending.
The stance – echoed by Labour leader Ed Miliband – puts the region on a collision course with both Mr Cameron and Nick Clegg, who plan to rush through a solution to the so-called ‘West Lothian’ question.
Under the fast-track timetable, firm plans will be unveiled in January – from a committee headed by Richmond MP William Hague – delighting Tories who fear the rising UKIP threat.
In reality, change looks impossible before the May general election, but the “English votes for English laws” proposal is, nevertheless, a political nightmare for Labour.
Mr Cameron suggested Scottish MPs would lose voting rights over tax issues, potentially leaving a Miliband administration – with 41 Scots MPs currently – unable to pass a Budget.
Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) attacked a “crude attempt to cobble this together on the back of an envelope”- calling on the prime minister to put devolution first –
“In our region, we will find that our position gets relatively worse. It might be a good solution for people in Hertfordshire, but I don’t think it’s a good solution for people in Durham.”
Andy McDonald (Middlesbrough) –
“Cameron completely missed the point. He should not be using this as an opportunity to increase the Tory stranglehold over England.”
Kevan Jones (North Durham) –
“Cameron is pandering to his right wing and UKIP – this is not going to help the North-East at all.
Jenny Chapman (Darlington) –
“He should be talking to people in the North-East about what they want and what extra powers they want, rather than making a back-of-a-fag-packet declaration.”
Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) –
“I’m astounded by the naivety of the prime minister in thinking that all he needs to do is change the way Westminster votes.”
Grahame Morris (Easington) –
“A Tory-dominated English Parliament, which continues to concentrate power and resources in the affluent South, will worsen existing regional inequities and frustrate the legitimate desire for greater autonomy for the North East.”
Phil Wilson (Sedgefield) –
“In any settlement, there has to be something for the regions and I think that has to be more powers over economic development.”
But Liberal Democrat Ian Swales (Redcar) – while agreeing devolution must go “further and faster” – said it would be “absurd” not to restrict Scottish voting rights at Westminster.
He said: “We may end up with some form of English parliament, but should first make it work by MPs only being able to vote on issues that affect the country they represent.”
The MPs agreed any notion of a regional assembly was “off the agenda” – arguing instead for new, combined authorities to be strengthened with economic powers.
Some constitutional experts warned of chaos ahead, arguing Westminster could end up with “two Governments” – one for defence and foreign affairs, the other for the likes of education and health.
And the respected Institute for Government think-tank also argued the “debate on English devolution” must be part of the post-referendum settlement.
A Government source rejected suggestions that Mr Cameron was fast-tracking the ‘English votes’ issue, while devolution was left in the slow lane.
He said: “We believe we have done a lot devolving powers within England, through the likes of City Deals – and they have been welcomed by business and political leaders in the North.”
Source – Northern Echo, 20 Sept 2014
The future of universal credit was already seriously in doubt. But its survival now looks even more improbable following Westminster’s promises to the Scottish people in the run up to yesterday’s independence vote.
In their white paper on independence, published last November, Holyrood promised the abolition of the bedroom tax and a halt to the rollout of universal credit and personal independence payment.
Clearly independence is no longer going to happen in the near future, but Westminster has promised Holyrood much greater independence in relation to welfare benefits. So, there remains a very strong possibility that universal credit will soon be brought to a halt in Scotland.
Even if that doesn’t happen, the fact that the tax and benefits systems in Scotland will soon begin to differ from those in the rest of the UK means that the currently non-existent IT for universal credit would soon have to become even more impossibly complex to cope with separate calculations for Scotland.
In addition, more devolution for Wales and Northern Ireland now seems to be on the agenda. If tax and benefits systems begin to evolve differently in all four countries in the UK then the possibility of the IT systems keeping pace with so many changes becomes ever less likely.
With so much uncertainty about the future, and with a paltry 11,000 people so far signed up to universal credit, yesterday’s vote may be the perfect excuse for the coalition to abandon this disastrous project.
Source – Benefits & Work, 19 Sept 2014
Even though Scotland didn’t vote in favour of independence yesterday, promises made by leaders at Westminster may spell disaster for claimants in the rest of the UK. In particular, it may mean IDS remaining free to persecute sick and disabled claimants, even if the Tories lose the next election.
Westminster politicians have guaranteed Holyrood much greater control over issues including welfare benefits and tax. But, in return, the Conservatives are now pushing to prevent Scottish MPs voting on benefits and tax measures in Westminster.
For Scottish claimants the changes are almost certainly good news. In their white paper on independence, published last November, Holyrood promised the abolition of the bedroom tax and a halt to the rollout of universal credit and personal independence payment. Holyrood has not gained independence overall, but in relation to benefits it looks like they may soon have a free hand.
So, for Scottish claimants, PIP, the bedroom tax and UC may all soon be distant memories.
But for the rest of the UK there is now the spectre that IDS and his persecution of the sick and disabled may not be halted even if the Tories lose the next election.
We could very easily find ourselves in a position where a Labour majority, or a Labour coalition, becomes a Conservative majority every time Westminster votes on tax or benefits issues if Scottish MPs are excluded. Whilst it might be difficult for the Conservatives to introduce radical new changes to the benefits system under these circumstances, they could certainly fight very effectively to keep things as they are.
Many claimants may argue that the difference between Labour and the Conservatives has become so slim that it will make little difference who is in charge. But others may consider that, no matter how awful Labour were when in power, they have suffered vastly more under the Conservatives.
So, for claimants at least, the prospect of life improving after the next general election may now be even more distant.
Source – Benefits & Work, 19 Sept 2014
With the Scottish independence referendum only days away, journalist and university lecturer Neil Macfarlane explains why he would vote yes. And why he thinks you would too
I’m a Scot who lives in the North-East. There are loads of us – chuck a paper aeroplane out your front window and you’ll probably hit one. I’ve lived happily here for years, but it won’t surprise those who know me that I would like Scotland to vote yes to independence next week.
I hope this happens because I don’t think the three main Westminster parties represent my politics any more. I like the idea of getting rid of nuclear weapons, of universal education, and I worry about the future of the NHS and the welfare state.
I think it’s sensible to increase immigration to help reverse decades of emigration by Scots like me and my family. I feel uncomfortable about parties of all stripes blaming foreigners and the poor for all problems.
I think the UK government and media is too focused on London. I think many people in the North-East feel the same about these issues.
I don’t know for sure if an independent Scotland would be richer or poorer but I do think it would be governed by people with its interests at heart. I like England and English people very much and I don’t think Braveheart is a good film.
Thatcher remains the longest serving Prime Minister of my lifetime, yet she was repeatedly rejected by the people of Scotland at the polls. When our teachers taught us about democracy, and how generations had fought and died to preserve it, something didn’t fit.
By the way, feel free to swap “Scotland” in the paragraph above for “Middlesbrough“, “Sedgefield“, Sunderland” or “Bishop Auckland“.
Pretty much all of this applies to the North-East, too. Sometimes people dismiss the independence movement by asking if there should also be separation for the North-East, for Manchester, or Liverpool.
Personally, I don’t see why not – if that’s what the people want. But the argument misunderstands what Scotland is. It is not a region of a country. It is its own country and always has been.
The United Kingdom only came into being 300 years ago as an agreement between two nations to form an alliance. Scotland was not conquered. Its remarkable achievements in science, philosophy, engineering, literature and statecraft had been established for centuries before 1707, and that spirit later combined with the same from England, Wales and Northern Ireland to make the union thrive.
This time last year most Scots liked the idea of the UK being a partnership of equals, and a sizable majority were happy enough to keep it that way. That has now changed.
The No campaign has been horrendously misjudged. Scots always believed they could be independent, but most doubted if they should. The Conservative-Labour-Lib Dem Better Together campaign then set about claiming that Scotland would collapse into disarray if left to its own devices. The campaign was dubbed “Project Fear” – by the No camp themselves.
Scots were told: You can’t keep the pound, you can’t stay in the EU, your aspirations are pipe dreams and we’ll rebuild Hadrian’s Wall to keep you out when it all goes wrong.
Their latest effort was billboards claiming: “Vote no if you love your children.” The polls are at 50:50, are they saying half the people in Scotland hate their kids? It’s so long since the Scots heard the positive case for the union, they’re beginning to suspect there isn’t one.
In the face of this onslaught, the Yes campaign has flourished. Grassroots activists have packed out town halls across the country making their case, bloggers have amassed followings to make newspaper editors cry with envy.
People who have never voted are being helped to register, and volunteers are putting on buses to give them a lift on polling day. Discussion on social media is dominated by funny, spiky, imaginative Yes voters.
There are touring arts festivals. Millions have been inspired by the idea that Scotland could become a fairer, more successful country, and by the promise of progressive policies that would never be offered by three Westminster parties all fighting over the same ground.
This isn’t petty nationalism. It is an inclusive movement. Every resident will be given a Scottish passport on day one of independence. One of the most high profile campaign groups is English Scots for Yes, who give away teabags branded: “Have a cuppa, vote yes.” There are groups for African Scots, Italian Scots,Polish Scots. I am proud of the fact I don’t get a vote but those who live in Scotland do, regardless of where they were born.
It’s even spreading beyond the border. A recent poll showed an even higher proportion of people in the North-East back Scottish independence. I’ve lost count of the number of times friends have asked: “Can we come too?“
The response to all of this has been a wishy-washy offer of more powers for the Scottish parliament, without saying exactly what those powers might be. This was George Osborne’s first intervention since he announced Scotland couldn’t keep the pound – a move which actually caused an increase in support for independence. At this point, the Chancellor could knock on every door in Scotland offering a free carwash, foot rub and £1000 cash and the polls would still rise for Yes.
While the SNP published a manifesto for Scotland’s future a year ago, Labour and the Tories are now trying to scramble a response with only days to go. Why not before now? Perhaps because they weren’t listening, because it’s too far away, because there are too few voters… because it was never a priority for them.
It’s a feeling the Scots, and we in the North-East, know all too well.
Source – Northern Echo, 11 Sept 2014
A North-East MP apologised last night after branding leading Conservative women MPs “puppets” who are interesting only for their clothes.
Helen Goodman, the Bishop Auckland MP, faced fierce criticism after backing a newspaper’s controversial “catwalk” coverage of the new Cabinet.
The Daily Mail has come under fire for sexism after a double-page feature focused on the hair, clothes, shoes, handbags – and even the legs – of promoted female Cabinet ministers.
But, yesterday, Ms Goodman tweeted: “#Mail’s page on Tory women was fair: all are puppets who’ll change nothing and their appearance really is most interesting thing about them.”
The comment triggered a major Westminster row, with immediate demands for Labour’s culture spokeswoman to withdraw the “demeaning slur”.
Anna Soubrey, the defence minister, said: “Helen Goodman’s comments were deliberately insulting. She should personally apologise to every one of the talented women she has chosen to cheaply slur.
“Ed Miliband needs to make clear that these comments are absolutely unacceptable otherwise once again we will see that he is too weak to stand up to his own shadow ministers.”
And Nicky Morgan, the new Education Secretary, said: “Helen Goodman’s comments were disgraceful and there is no place for them in modern politics.”
A letter sent to Mr Miliband demanded that the Labour leader “take disciplinary action” against the Bishop Auckland MP, unless she backed down.
Initially, Ms Goodman attempted to ride out the storm, arguing the comment had been meant as a joke and saying: “I’m very sorry my last tweet offended some people. I intended it as a light-hearted remark.”
“He said a third of all his ministers would be women – fewer than one in four are. It is David Cameron who has failed.”
However, more than three hours later – as criticism intensified – Ms Goodman tweeted: “I was wrong in what I tweeted about Tory women ministers and I apologise to them unreservedly.”
> Sigh – another capitulation.
In the much-ridiculed Mail feature, Elizabeth Truss, the new Environment Secretary, was described as looking “bright and sensible but a little bit too eighties air hostess”.
And the newspaper called work minister Esther McVey a “thigh-flashing vision in grey check by Vivienne Westwood”.
> Considering how Fester McVile gets described in blogs…
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg poked fun at the Mail, posting a photo of himself wearing a suit, shirt and trademark Liberal Democrat yellow tie – and joking that he hoped he did not look “too 80s cabin attendant”.
> No Nick. You just look like a prat.
Source – Northern Echo, 18 July 2014