Amidst the Brexit chaos, last week an important report was published that may have slipped under the radar.
The Institute for Public Policy Research released their ‘State of the North 2018’ report.
The report laid bare what we here in the North already know, that the North-South divide has grown under this Government’s watch and that Government spending on the North has fallen whilst spending in the South has increased.
At its inception, I derided the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ as an empty and meaningless phrase that would make no difference to the lives of people here in Shields.
It was a typical Cameron-esque soundbite that could be trotted out by the Chancellor and Ministers to give the impression that they cared about the North.
I wish I had been wrong, but as the IPPR report shows, I was not.
Earlier this year I extended a direct invitation to the new Northern Powerhouse Minister to come and explain to my constituents why growth in Shields has been painfully slow and unemployment stubbornly remains higher than in the rest of the North East.
Needless to say, he did not take me up on this invitation.
The IPPR report showed us that spending per head in London has increased by £326. That’s twice as much as in the North, which has increased by just £146 per head.
The report also states that the Tory Government-led Northern Powerhouse agenda has “Overlooked the people of the North, and their need for quality jobs, better health and wellbeing, and it was severely undercut by a programme of self-defeating austerity.”
As many as two million adults and one million children live in poverty in the North.
Weekly pay has fallen by £21 in the North since 2008, more than the national trend.
Half a million people work in accommodation and food services jobs where weekly pay is half the national average anyway.
The North has also lost 300,000 Government jobs since 2009 and eight of the 10 police forces worst affected by funding cuts are in the North.
Sadly, most of these figures will come as no surprise to us here in Shields, who have been hit hard by austerity.
New figures show that the North East now has the highest rate of unemployment and the lowest rate of employment of any English region and despite warm words from the Prime Minister that austerity is coming to an end, this trend shows no sign of stopping.
Hopefully we will soon have a Labour government that will implement an industrial strategy encouraging growth across all regions and sectors, reversing the years of harmful Tory policies that have refused to support our industries, businesses and workers.
However, in the meantime, I promise I will continue to do all I can to make sure our community voice continues to be heard in Parliament.
As this will be my last column before Christmas, I would like to thank every one of my constituents for their support this year and hope you all have a peaceful and happy Christmas.