People must be the region's first priority if the economic landscape is to improve, Lord Ian Wrigglesworth has declared.
Ian Wrigglesworth, the former MP for Stockton South and now Lord Wrigglesworth of Norton on Tees in the House of Lords, has called upon the North East community as a whole to work together to encourage and inspire the unemployed in deprived areas, describing them as “the millstone” for a successful economy.
The former chairman of the Port of Tyne said developments at the port, Newcastle International Airport and the long-running campaign for the dualling of the A1 must all come second to the people out of work across the area.
He vowed to drive the issue through the House of Lords, but said it is the North East’s responsibility to encourage the unemployed.
Lord Wrigglesworth said: “I think one of the most important things that all of us need to focus on, aside from things like the apprenticeship scheme, are the people in the area because our millstone is the people that are not aspiring, not achieving and not joining in with things like apprenticeships. If you go to the Easingtons, the Crooks, the places we know so well down on Teesside, there are people that don’t take part, don’t join in and they are our problem.
“We still have the highest post natal mortality rate, alcoholism and obesity rates – they are a problem for us as a region compared to other regions.
“Until we sort the problem of people out, never mind the A1, the port, the airport and all the other things, if we can get that right, get those people participating and educated and aspiring, then we will be like other regions in the country and that to me, of all of us, is the major challenge for the future – and one of the things I will be doing in the House of Lords. I will be pushing that agenda a little bit further forward.
“We all know this problem exists. And it doesn’t affect their lives, but it affects the whole region.
“If they feel confident in the assets they have they can do anything. If they feel cowed, depressed and that they have nothing to offer, it’s the road to hell. And this is our responsibility, not the government’s. It’s not about the government, it’s the North East people’s responsibility.”
Lord Wrigglesworth’s comments came at the North East Business Executive of the Year Awards, where he was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement award for the experience, energy and passion he has brought to whatever cause he has striven for in the region.
He added: “I think this award is a bit premature because I’m just starting my fifth career. I’m gobsmacked.”
The North East Business Executive of the Year Awards supplement will be published in The Journal on Wednesday.