January often brings hope and expectations for the year to come. One of my hopes for 2014 is for our economy to return to sustained growth after its recovery was stifled in 2010. There have been some positive signs nationally and those out of work across Wearside will be hoping that this might be the year when they can get back on their feet and into employment.
The beginning of a new year is also a good time to look back on the twelve months that have just passed. Unfortunately this shows that the north east is continuing to suffer from a jobs crisis. A recently published job market review of 2013 by Adzuna, a job search website, has published figures showing there are on average 28 jobseekers for every vacancy in Sunderland. We also feature in a list of the top ten worst UK cities to find a job. Long term unemployment, particularly amongst our young people remains a major concern and urgent action is needed.
The government are trying to claim that the worst is over, and that might be true for the bankers as they collect their annual bonuses, but for many in our community things are still really tough. Prices are rising faster than wages, and on average workers have suffered a real-term drop in average wages of £1,506. The government’s inability to create a fairer economy that brings jobs and growth to all regions of the UK, not just to some areas, has led to a damaging cost of living crisis.
The government has also failed to learn the lessons of the economic crisis and Labour is determined to act to fix Britain’s broken banking system.
Too much power is concentrated in too few hands, with just four banks controlling 85% of small business lending. Locally, small and medium sized firms tell me they cannot get the finance they need from the banks, which in turn means they can’t take on new staff and grow their business. If Labour wins the next election we will establish for the first time a threshold for the market share any one bank can have of personal accounts and small business lending. This will bring real competition to the market and force the banks to serve us, not the other way round.
Finally, it’s important in tough times like these that we band together. In the past, our community has shown remarkable resilience in the face of adversity. This year I will continue working hard to promote our region at a national level in Parliament together with local policymakers and business leaders. If we want 2014 to bring positive news on employment in our region we need to send a clear message that the north east is open for business, but we also need a government willing to act and on our side.
Originally published in the Sunderland Echo 23rd January 2014