Byline: Gill Hale
AS WE begin the second month of 2012, my thoughts are on the year ahead and what trying times the region will face this year, especially in relation to the economy.
The North East economy was growing at the same rate as London up to 2009. Our economy had stabilised with the rest of the UK, until the coalition Government came into power. Up until 2008 there was an increase of more than 11.2% in the number of North East residents in work, against a national average of 9.2%.
Compare this to where we are now with an unemployment figure of 12% according to the latest official figures - the highest in the UK. Up to 2008 we had a 9.2% increase in private sector employment. We also had a 17.7% increase in the number of people who were self-employed in the region. The assumption that the North East economy failed to transform under the Labour Government is at odds with the reality.
It is since the start of the coalition Government that we have witnessed the widening inequalities between regions, increasing the North-South divide and disproportionately damaging our economy and people.
The region was on the road to recovery in 2009/10 and weathering the economic storm. There were 24,000 jobs created in the North East during this period. However the Government's failure to handle the economic crisis effectively has cost the region the loss of 23,000 jobs.
We have suffered wage freezes, VAT increases, a collapse in consumer confidence and job insecurity and redundancies. In the public sector we are looking at the region losing 2,000 jobs a month; a staggering amount.
While we are haemorrhaging jobs in the public sector the private sector is not filling the gap. …