At Work and Pensions Questions in the Commons on Monday 17 October, Bridget Phillipson, Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South, highlighted the government’s failure to tackle unemployment in the north east.
Regional employment figures published by the Office of National Statistics in September show that unemployment in the north east currently stands at 7.5% – the highest rate in the UK. The north east also has the highest claimant rate in the country and one of the highest rates of economic inactivity.
At Work and Pensions Questions on Monday, Bridget asked Damian Green MP, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, whether these alarming figures were what the government meant by a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ -; its much-vaunted scheme to drive economic growth in the north -; and if ministers had abandoned the plans altogether.
In response, the minister alleged that the government had not abandoned the scheme and that it was determined to spread the benefits of a ‘high employment-low unemployment regime’ to all regions of the country, including the north east.
Speaking at the end of Work and Pensions Questions, Bridget said:
“The latest employment statistics show that the north east is continuing to suffer from chronically high levels of unemployment. The current rate of 7.5% is significantly higher than many other regions of the UK, and more than double the lowest rate of 3.2% in the East of England.
“Despite all the promises over the so-called ‘Northern Powerhouse’, it is clear that little is being done to tackle joblessness in the region.
“Indeed, although the Work and Pensions Secretary assured me that the Northern Powerhousescheme still existed, he failed to offer any specifics on how the government intended to use it to reduce unemployment in the north east.
“Despite the recent changes in Downing Street, it is clear that this Tory Government still has no interest the economic prosperity of our region.
“With thousands of people in the north east desperate for secure and stable work, the minister’s praise for the government’s ‘high employment-low unemployment regime’ rings hollow.
“Although the government has had six years to tackle this issue, it still has no strategy for driving economic growth in the north beyond the empty rhetoric of a former Chancellor’s failing pet project.”
To watch Bridget speak at Work and Pensions Questions on 17 October 2016, click here