Nigel Adams, Conservative Member of Parliament for Selby and Ainsty and Parliamentary Private Secretary to Lord Strathclyde, Leader of the House of Lords, gives his personal take on 2012.
2012 has been another tough year but thankfully in respect of employment we are seeing a turnaround that appears to be baffling some economics commentators. In my own constituency of Selby and Ainsty in North Yorkshire, unemployment has fallen by a quarter since the coalition has been in office. With a national unemployment rate of 7.8% and Selby and Ainsty’s rate falling to 2.9%, I am encouraged that a recovery is well underway in the region. In fact, there are now record numbers of people in work and across the Yorkshire and Humber region has seen employment rise by 48,000 to 2,503,000 people. The Office for National Statistics said that Yorkshire’s unemployment rate fell by 10.7 per cent from August to October – the largest fall in the country.
The praise for this success should go to the private sector businesses and entrepreneurs in our area who are growing their businesses, taking on staff and apprentices and doing their bit as we continue to rebalance our economy away from an over-reliance towards the public sector. In September I held my second Jobs Fair and despite the usual opposition detractors carping on online newspaper blogs, that such events are a waste of time, almost one thousand people attended. Over 40 companies and organisations, large and small, exhibited and the feedback has been very encouraging in terms of job starts.
It is also worth mentioning that staff at Job Centre Plus can, and do, come in for quite a bit of flak but they do an excellent job, sometimes in very difficult conditions. I witnessed this first hand earlier this month when I did some job interview technique sessions and mentoring for jobseekers.
Another initiative that is taking off and beginning to get some traction is superfast broadband. North Yorkshire is a large rural county with some very difficult-to-reach areas and ‘not spots’. Poor connectivity is a major disadvantage for households as more and more government services go online and it affects micro businesses in particular, especially as more and more people are working from home. Broadband North Yorkshire is the campaign to get the county connected. It is the first pilot area to start the roll-out of superfast broadband and is the first county in the UK to successfully deploy the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) funds, which will be used to extend the roll-out of fibre broadband across the county.
The project will reach those areas outside of BT’s commercial roll-out using a partnership approach to ensure all communities have access to the fastest possible broadband speeds. This is the first announcement made by the partnership, following the signing of a contract between the county council and BT in July this year, which saw the creation of Superfast North Yorkshire and a total fibre broadband investment expected to reach around £70 million. Having secured millions of pounds of public money to boost our economy and give residents the same opportunities as those in major towns and cities from being better connected, I was very pleased to officiate at the launch of superfast broadband in one of my villages recently where the community came together to deliver the service and the village pub literally became the hub as the service was delivered via the pub roof! The next few years promise to be exciting times in North Yorkshire when the digital divide between urban and rural communities is narrowed, bringing more companies, jobs and opportunities to our cities, towns and villages. Along with other Members of Parliament, I will now be watching BT and the county council to ensure that they deliver on their promises.
One area where living in a large rural county is currently a disadvantage is in health funding where we suffer from a long term imbalance in our health economy. In the Yorkshire and Humber region, North Yorkshire receives the least amount of NHS funding per head yet we have the largest number of over-85’s across the region. Last year North Yorkshire received £1477 per head compared to £1903 in Barnsley; this is simply unfair. It means that ever since the PCT was created it has accumulated a deficit of around £19m each year. The reason is not profligacy or gross incompetence by management but because the funding formula introduced by the last Government discriminates against rural areas with an elderly population. It is clear that the treatment of elderly patients is more expensive than someone middle aged but the cost of treating an elder population is not given enough weight. I am pleased that we will receive a 2.3% increase in funding next year like everywhere else and that the clinical commissioning board is to review the funding formula as my constituents cannot continue to be discriminated against in this way just because they happen to live in a rural part of the county.
Nigel Adams is Member of Parliament for Selby and Ainsty in North Yorkshire and Parliamentary Private Secretary to Lord Strathclyde, the Leader of the House of Lords.
You can read Ed Jacobs, the Northerner’s political commentor, on the Conservative year in the north, here.