How do we boost the North East?

A string of dire statistics leave no doubt about the crisis facing the smallest of England’s nine regions. It also has huge assets but they need mobilising. The Guardian Northerner‘s political commentator Ed Jacobs calls for ideas

So the Olympics are over, our political leaders have packed their buckets and spades and are now sunning themselves in destinations across Europe and we have a Yorkshireman, born and bred, keeping control of the shop in the form of Foreign Secretary and Richmond MP, William Hague. All well and good.

Well not quite, for in the midst of the post-Olympic analysis and the euphoria of the medals won, the Office for National Statics (ONS) this week released what was largely unreported material on regional trends across the UK, data which provide particularly worrying reading for the North East.

In its profile of the region, the ONS revealed that despite it being the smallest UK region, the North East faces some of the biggest policy challenges. For example:

The region produced 10.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) emissions per resident in 2009, the highest in any ofl the English regions.

Almost 15% of adults aged 16 to 64 had disabilities that limited their daily activities or work in the North East in the year ending March 2011, the highest region in England.

More than a fifth of children in the North East lived in workless households in Q4 2011 (22.4%), the highest proportion in the UK.

Life expectancy at birth in the region in the three-year period 2008 to 2010 was among the lowest in the UK at 77.2 years for males and 81.2 years for females compared with 78.2 and 82.3 years respectively for the UK.

Gross disposable household income (GDHI) of residents in the North East, at £13,300 per head in 2010, was 15% below the UK average and the lowest of the English regions and countries of the UK.

In April 2011, the median gross weekly earnings for full-time employees on adult rates who were resident in the North East was £451, lower than the UK median of £501.

Pretty depressing stuff. But it gets worse. With national figures suggesting a drop in unemployment to 8% across the UK, the data also points to unemployment of 10.4% in the North East, almost double that of the region with the lowest rate of 5.8% – the South West. Inactivity rates are also England’s highest in the North East, standing at 25.5%.

With PricewaterhouseCoopers having also pointed to the North East and Cumbria seeing the biggest increase in insolvencies and reports of a sharp drop in apprenticeship numbers across the region it would seem that, in the aftermath of what Boris Johnson might call Olympiomania, we’re heading for a hangover plus a headache.

As the parties prepare for their conferences and with promises of a coalition ‘mid term review’ sometime over the next few months, what one policy or initiative do you feel would best kick start the North East?

We’ll be putting the best suggestions to Ministers and Shadow Ministers and seeking a response from them.

Ed Jacobs is a political consultant at the Leeds based Public Affairs Company and devolution correspondent for the centre-left political and policy blog, Left Foot Forward. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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