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.
Unhappy workers at a Tyneside sweet factory are close to striking a deal with bosses.
Staff at the Nestlé factory in Fawdon, Newcastle have had “constructive” talks with management over restructuring plans.
They expressed concern when proposals understood to include changes to paid break entitlements and shift patterns were put forward last year.
No redundancies are thought to be planned as part of the changes but unions claimed pay packets could be slashed for full-time employees.
The confectionery giant insisted changes were necessary “in order to ensure the longer term security of the site”.
More than 450 factory floor staff have been locked in talks with bosses since last summer and threatened to strike if no resolution was found.
A ballot was held by the trades union asking staff to vote on the company’s pay offer, with all 377 workers who voted rejecting it.
But now it appears that a pay deal has been struck, with changes to shift patterns to be finalised later.
A source said:
“We are being given a 2% pay rise and another one in July. The factory is also looking at taking on more staff, although shift patterns probably won’t be sorted until a later date.
“Staff are happier now than they were a few months ago, when there was real unrest. They were threatening to strike but that is not the case any more.”
The Fawdon plant, on Rowan Drive, is second only to York as the company’s largest factory in the UK and opened in 1958.
It was the centre of a police probe earlier this year when unidentified pink tablets were found among Jelly Tots on the factory’s production line.
As well as Jelly Tots the other popular brands manufactured at the plant include Fruit Pastilles, Rolo, Blue Riband, Breakaway, Yorkie, Drifter and Caramac.
It is thought to produce around 40,000 tons of chocolate a year.
A Nestlé spokesman said: “We have had a number of constructive discussions with the trades union and these will continue.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 19 Feb 2015
Job Centres in the region are among the first in the country to take part in the national roll out of the Government’s new Universal Credit, which began today (Monday, February 16).
Universal Credit, designed to get people into work more quickly and making it easier for them to earn more, has started in 15 areas, including Hambleton, Ryedale, Hartlepool and York.
Initially the credit, which merges six working-age benefits into one, is being rolled out only for new claims from single people who would otherwise have been eligible for jobseekers allowance, including those with existing housing benefit and working tax credit claims.
At Northallerton Job Centre today there was confusion over how it will work. One single parent, who gave her name as Julie, said she had been told nothing about it.
“It could possibly be a good idea, rather than having separate benefits and dealing with different departments,” she said.
“But I have been told nothing about this, and how it will work. I want to get back to work and I am studying at the moment so if it helps me to get back to work that’s good. But information would be a big help too.”
Another 19-year-old man who is currently claiming jobseekers allowance said he was also in the dark.
A pilot scheme has been tried out in the North-West, which the Government said had been a success
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said:
“The evidence shows that under Universal Credit, people move into work more quickly and earn more money, giving them increased financial security.
“It is very impressive that we have seen these results so soon and that this is having a real impact on people’s lives. This is a cultural change which will alter the landscape of work for a generation.”
But Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves said no one believed the promises that the new system would work.
“Labour wants universal credit to work and we’ll call in the National Audit Office to do an immediate review of this failing programme to get a grip of the spiralling waste and delays.”
Source – Northern Echo, 16 Feb 2015
Almost a quarter of all North-East workers – and nearly a half of part-time staff – are not being paid a living wage, new research shows.
Local authorities in the region are facing fresh calls to pay employees and contractors more after a study by the GMB revealed that 23.4 per cent of North-East jobs paid less than the living wage.
Jobs held by women – 29.9 per cent – and part-time roles – 46.8 per cent – were disproportionately affected, the report based on data from the Office for National Statistics showed.
The living wage is a recommended rate of pay that takes into account the true cost of living in the UK.
In November 2014 the national living wage increased to £7.85 per hour outside London.
GMB is publishing the figures to mark the launch of its 2015 campaign to get every local authority signed up to the living wage. 134 out of 375 local authorities in England and Wales have so far made the move, up from 103 a year ago.
So far only two authorities in the North-East – Newcastle and South Tyneside – have implemented or committed to implement the living wage.
In North Yorkshire, two councils – York and Scarborough – have taken the step.
Billy Coates, GMB regional secretary for the North-East, said:
“No area is immune from the low-pay epidemic which is why all local authorities need to champion the living wage in their communities, beginning with their own staff and contractors.
“There are 446,300 council employees paid less than the Living Wage, the majority of them women working part-time.
“The living wage matters because it takes into account the income that people need for a minimum acceptable standard of living. It is a first step towards a rate of pay that people can live on without relying on benefits.”
In the North-East, Hartlepool has the largest proportion of jobs paying less than the living wage with 34.7 per cent, followed by Redcar and Cleveland – 30 per cent – and Middlesbrough and Northumberland, both 26.8 per cent.
At regional level, the East Midlands has the largest proportion of jobs paying less than the living wage with 24.7 per cent.
Source – Northern Echo, 07 Feb 2015
David Cameron’s plans to target benefit cuts at the young and vulnerable have come under fire from within his own party.
Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative chair of the health committee, said she did not support scrapping housing benefit for 18-to-21-year-olds, after the prime minister toured the television studios detailing some of the Tories’ proposals to cut another £12bn from the welfare budget.
In a series of interviews, Cameron repeated his pledge to lower the welfare cap from £26,000 to £23,000 per family alongside proposals to stop housing benefit for school-leavers. The cap was about a “basic issue of fairness”, he said.
“I don’t think a family should be able to get more in benefits than someone going out to work, working every day, and trying to do the right thing for them and their family,” he said.
> If anyone ever does get more in benefits than someone working (which I doubt) , perhaps it’d be because the wages they are earning are so poor, or they’re only working 16 hours a week.
But in any case, you can only play the hand you’ve got, so if it did happen that you’d get more on benefits than by working…why not ? Cameron & Co probably dodge paying more tax in a year than you’d claim.
“One of the criticisms of the cap set at £26,000, which I have heard all over the country, is that the cap was set too high. We’re responding to that.
“We’re generating these jobs. People listening to this programme don’t pay their taxes to sustain people on welfare who could work.”
> Well actually, yes they do – National Insurance, at least. When working I’ve never grudged paying NI (much) because I paid it in the belief that I could claim some of it back should I become unemployed, and also – and this is an important point – that it should go towards helping others unemployed even if I wasn’t.
He said the country was no longer willing to tolerate people living on welfare as “a lifestyle choice” and claimed Conservative plans would help “young people move into work more quickly”.
> A lifestyle choice ? And I thought it was a survival choice….the choice being survive or die.
However, his proposals on scrapping housing benefit for young people came under fire from Wollaston and a number of charities.
Wollaston, the Conservative MP for Totnes, told the BBC’s Daily Politics:
“That is a policy that I don’t actually support. The point is that there is a debate going forward, I would not support personally taking housing benefit from the most vulnerable. I would not personally support taking away housing benefit from the very young. I think because there is an issue here we need to discuss about intergenerational fairness … There are many policies within parties that we have a debate about.”
Tory peer Baroness Wheatcroft later added that the Conservatives need to “get the tone right” to make sure they sound sympathetic towards those who cannot work.
“I firmly believe there is only one nasty party and it’s a very nasty party called Ukip. What the Conservative party needs to do is to be careful that it does not appear to be in the least nasty, but kind and caring and wants people to work because it is the best possible solution to them as well as the country,” she told the World at One.
> HA HA HA HA HA ! Maybe you’d appear kind and caring if you were kind and caring. No-one who has been fucked over by the Tories is going to forget it.
The warnings came the day after academics from the LSE, Manchester and York published a new study showing the coalition’s cuts are disproportionately hitting families with young children.
Among the charities to issue warnings about the proposed benefit cap were the Child Poverty Action Group. Its chief executive, Alison Garnham, said:
“Let’s be absolutely clear – the benefit cap is at least nine times more likely to affect children than adults, and the majority of adults it hits are lone parents, many of whom have children so young even the government recognises they should not be required to work.
> The parent or the children ? I only ask because the government making small children work just seems so likely…
“On the day that a major programme of research by academics from leading universities shows families with young children have been more impoverished than anyone else in recent years, we have another policy-push that would undercut the most vulnerable.”
Paul Noblet, head of public affairs at youth homelessness charity Centrepoint, weighed in on the issue of housing benefit, saying it would cause further misery for vulnerable young people.
“The 80,000 young people who find themselves homeless will think David Cameron is more focused on May’s elections than the reality that, for the most vulnerable young people in our society, housing benefit is a lifeline, not a lifestyle choice,” he said.
Source – The Guardian, 27 Jan 2015
Wishing our readers a happy midwinter festival of their choice (or none at all, if that’s your preference).
But don’t forget, Jobseekers, you’re still supposed to be looking for jobs today. It may be a public holiday but if you’re unemployed you are set apart from nice, hard-working people and deserve to be punished.
But while you’re busy chasing those non-exitant vacancies, have a listen to David Sedaris‘s account of his job as an xmas elf in a New York department store… and know that, yes, things really could be worse.
An MP says he fears his constituents are being used as “guinea pigs” for the roll out of the Government’s Universal Credit – described as the biggest change to the welfare state in a lifetime.
Universal Credit combines six out-of-work benefits into one single payment paid monthly, instead of fortnightly payments.
It has already been introduced in North-West England and will be “rapidly” rolled out to selected job centres in the region from February next year, including those in Hartlepool, Northallerton, Newcastle and York.
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright said:
“I am worried that many of my constituents will be guinea pigs for this fast roll out.
“Ministers have showed shocking incompetence so far with this project which has been subject to significant delays and cost overruns.
“I will monitor the situation to ensure that the taxpayer gets value for money, while ensuring people in Hartlepool claiming benefits and tax credits don’t face delays.”
The Government says the new system will be simpler and is part of a long-term economic plan to cap welfare and “make work pay”.
But there are concerns it won’t be suitable for everybody – particularly the most vulnerable claimants.
A member of staff at one jobcentre plus in the region said:
“The theory is that as it is paid like a wage, it prepares people for work.
“But the reality is that some people are a long way from being capable of working.
“People with serious addictions being given a month’s money in one go is just setting them up to fail.”
> A statement which, though probably with some truth in it, automatically sets up the idea that all benefit recipients are addicts.
Universal Credit is paid direct into bank accounts and is gradually reduced in line with any earnings a claimant receives.
According to the Department of Work and Pensions households on Universal Credit spend double the amount of time on finding work than they do on Jobseeker’s Allowance.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said:
“We’ve already seen remarkable success, with Universal Credit claimants moving into work faster and staying in work longer. As part of our long-term economic plan, people will have the financial security of knowing that if they work more they will earn more.”
The roll out is expected to be completed by spring 2016.
> But we don’t expect it will…
Source – Northern Echo, 13 Dec 2014
More than 230,000 people across the region are at risk of losing their right to vote, under a radical elections shake-up.
They are on course to drop off electoral rolls because of moves to require residents to register individually, rather than allowing one person to sign up an entire household.
Before the switch – to combat electoral fraud – election chiefs have sought to “match” voters from existing databases, automatically transferring names they can verify.
But, in County Durham alone, 45,989 people – or 11 per cent of the adult population – could not be matched and are currently missing from the new register.
There are also huge numbers to be found in Darlington (8,506, 11 per cent), Middlesbrough (11,026, 11 per cent), Richmondshire (3,996, 11 per cent) and – in particular – Newcastle (36,678, 18 per cent) and York (36,283, 23 per cent).
Areas with a high density of young adults, private renters and students have the most alarming gaps in their new rolls.
Missing voters have already been chased up with letters, asking them to provide additional information – their National Insurance number and date of birth – so they can be registered.
But Labour has warned the change is being rushed, calling for “block registration” of students and people in residential homes, to ensure they stay on lists.
Stephen Twigg, the party’s constitutional affairs spokesman, said:
“There is real concern about a large number of people falling off the register.
Warning 7.5m names were already missing, Mr Twigg added:
“If an unintended consequence of IER is that the situation gets even worse, all of us should be very concerned.”
But David Collingwood, Durham’s electoral services manager, played down talk of problems, saying:
“New enquiry forms for further information will be followed up with personal visits if necessary.
“We are confident this process will see the majority successfully switched to the new system and be eligible to vote.”
Jenny Watson, its chairwoman, added:
“There’s still more work to do. Every electoral registration officer has detailed plans in place to reach those residents they were not able to transfer automatically.”
IER – described as the biggest change to the electoral registration system in almost 100 years – has been deliberately delayed until after next year’s general election.
But Mr Twigg said rolling over existing lists would not capture people who have moved house – or turned 18 – since the last registers were compiled.
Source – Northern Echo, 31 Oct 2014
Beggars can’t be choosers, they simply have to go – that is the stark warning issued by Ray Mallon.
The Middlesbrough Mayor said he will “drive all the beggars out of the town” saying they are “all criminals”.
He made the statement at an Executive meeting held at Middlesbrough Town Hall yesterday.
“Every single one of them is a criminal and diversified from crime into begging because it pays well and the public are giving them money because they are intimidating,” he said.
“There are about 16 beggars in the town now.”
He recalled when he first came into office and made a similar bid to drive out beggars.
“Soon after I was elected (in 2002) there were 28 beggars in the town centre,” he said.
“People were being put off coming here to shop. By 2004 the beggars had been run out of town.”
Mr Mallon took direct action against one beggar – standing next to him and telling shoppers not to give him any money until he got fed up and moved away.
He took similar action against a beggar in York walking up to him and asking him for a pound to the man’s surprise.
“I was wearing my shorts and my cap so I didn’t look like the Middlesbrough Mayor,” he said.
“He said no it’s the other way round. I said ‘Not today, you give money to me’. He said ‘I’m not putting up with this’ and walked off and a woman shouted to me ‘It’s Robocop!’”
He said the problem has crept up again and blamed the downturn of the local economy.
“The local authority must take this subject very seriously and do everything in its power to eradicate this problem,” he said.
> Eradicating the problem apparently means eradicating the results of the problem, then ? Dont attempt to change the policies, just chase the victims of them out of town.
“From now on I don’t want the public to give them any money.”
> Or what ? Surely that choice belongs to the giver ?
He highlighted the corner of Southfield Road and Linthorpe Road outside Sainsbury’s as a new troublespot.
He has given Cllr Steve Bloundele, Executive member for commercial assets and income, the task of meeting with officers and the police to tackle the issue.
“I want this local authority with the police to be robust in this.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 10 Sept 2014
An MP has said the North-East has been “totally ignored once again” in a Government consultation on rail travel.
The Government is consulting on future Northern and TransPennine franchises which start in February 2016.
Plans have already been unveiled for major improvements to Manchester train stations and the possibility of electrification of the railway lines to York or Leeds has been raised.
But Andy McDonald, Labour MP for Middlesbrough, said the North-East and especially the Tees Valley is being “totally ignored.”
In a written response he pointed to an Institute of Institute of Public Policy Research report which showed that for nearly £3,000 spent per person on transport in London and the South-East just £5 is spent in the North-East.
He also said current TransPennine trains were “third rate,” any investment in the North-East was confined to the Tyne and Wear Metro and the current franchise plans were likely to lead to ticket office closures and price hikes for customers. Stopping electrification at York or Leeds would also reduce the region to being left with mere “shuttle services to the 21st Century.”
He continued: “I went to one presentation about rail with the secretary of Transport about this and all I could see on the screen was an arrow pointing North-East. That was our only mention. I went beserk. There’s nothing for us, despite the fact that we’re the only region outside London actually with a positive contribution to GDP. It’s like the North doesn’t exist at all outside the M62 corridor.”
Mr McDonald said he had sympathy with The Hannah Mitchell Foundation which campaigns for the North to have a regional Government. The Foundation has appealed directly to the Labour Party to promise to make changes if elected to the franchise to include new trains which it says should be made in the north.
Companies will be chosen to run the new rail franchises in the coming year.
Source – Northern Echo, 18 Aug 2014