Living Standards

Part of Opposition Day — [Un-allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 3:56 pm on 30th November 2011.

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Photo of Ian Mearns Ian Mearns Labour, Gateshead 3:56 pm, 30th November 2011

That is exactly the case, and the impact will be felt more greatly in the regions outside the south- east.

The BBC’s research revealed a clear north-south divide, and a number of factors within the categories were analysed, including the number of vulnerable and resilient industries within an area, the life expectancy of residents, the earnings of workers, and the unemployment and crime rates. The Deputy Prime Minister even admitted at the time that Experian’s research showed that a north-south divide was already present in England. He said that large spending cuts to be announced in the following months should be seen as a broader effort to put the economy on to a more sustainable footing. He spoke about the need to “balance the books”, and to redress the balance. From the north-east’s perspective, can I thank the Deputy Prime Minister? I think not.

In the face of clear evidence of the north-east’s vulnerability, what was the Government’s action? In the last financial year, while the 12 least deprived authorities in England have suffered cuts of around £5 per head of population, Gateshead has lost £88 per head, and the 12 authorities in the north-east have lost an average of £84 per head in expenditure, so no one on the Government Bench should dare to come out with the usual mantra of “We’re all in this together.” It is clear that if we are all in this together, some are dipping their toes and some are in up to our necks.

In November 2010, the Office for Budget Responsibility predicted that 410,000 jobs would be lost in the public sector as a result of the coalition’s cuts. However, in October 2011, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said that overall job losses are now expected to be between 600,000 and 750,000 between now and 2015-16. In the north-east already, local authorities have shed well over 10,000 jobs, and 30,000 jobs in the public sector have gone. Some 142,000 people are on the dole in a population of only 2.5 million, and between 12 and 15 people chase each job vacancy in the jobcentres of the north-east. We are not all in it together. There is clearly a divide in the nation.

Where are the jobs in the private sector? Where is the growth that was supposed to replace public sector job losses in the north-east? They simply have not happened, and they will not happen, because the Government’s policies are sucking spending power from the north-east’s economy. Our high streets are suffering, our shops are closing, and our local economy is shedding jobs. If anything, the private sector in the north-east is becoming poorer. Although there is much innovation, cuts in input tariffs are having an impact on green industries. Other industries, such as Allied Bakeries in my constituency have shed jobs, as has Waverley Vintners. The Alcan smelter in the constituency of my hon. Friend Ian Lavery has lost jobs. Things are getting bad up there, and we need a real rebalancing of the economy. Instead of borrowing money to spend on dole and benefit payments, why do we not use that borrowing to invest in our economy, to provide infrastructure growth and create jobs in construction? We are not all in this together, and clearly the Government must wake up to that fact.