Osborne promises further action on North East

Chancellor George Osborne talks North East economy on Virgin Money visit

George Osborne MP Chancellor of the Exchequer visits the Virgin Money offices at the Regents Centre, Gosforth, Newcastle Upon Tyne
George Osborne MP Chancellor of the Exchequer visits the Virgin Money offices at the Regents Centre, Gosforth, Newcastle Upon Tyne

The Chancellor has admitted more could be done to bolster the North East economy.

George Osborne was in Newcastle as news broke that the UK economy has finally passed its pre-recession levels with 0.8% growth in the last quarter.

Despite this, the North East continues to be the region of the UK with the highest unemployment rate, and one which is rising as others fall.

Speaking on a visit to Virgin Money as the bank announced it was paying the final privatisation funds to Government, Mr Osborne said there was still more to do on road and rail, but pointed to extensive investment as proof the whole of the UK is benefiting from a return to growth.

Speaking at the bank’s Gosforth office, Mr Osborne told The Journal: “In many ways the bank tells the story of the North East economy and the whole of the UK economy.

“Seven years ago this was the headquarters for Northern Rock, many people feared for their jobs, seven years later Virgin Money are creating new jobs and we also learnt that the British economy is now bigger than it was before the great recession. I’m determined to go on making sure that jobs are created here in the North East.

“More jobs have been created here in the North East, and at a faster rate, than anywhere else in the UK. We have to keep that up, whether its big business like Virgin or small business we are going to make sure they are creating jobs and have the infrastructure to do that here in the North East.

“I am doing everything I can to rebuild the British economy, and make sure we have the roads and railways to make companies relocate here.”

Asked what other Government support the region could expect, Mr Osborne said: “I want the North East to be part of a northern powerhouse, where we link up our great northern cities, and make sure that they have the modern transport links, the up to date roads and fast trains, as well as the science and innovation to create well paid jobs and we have a lot of great things to work with locally, but there’s more we can do.

“We are looking at things such as the dualling of the A1, we are looking at how we make sure the Nissan site continues to expand and can get its cars to the ports. We are looking at what we can do to make journey times quicker around the city here in Newcastle.

“These are all things you can only do with a growing economy, they were not affordable seven years ago. But now, when the economy is bigger than it was before the great recession, let us resolve to carry on, the work is not done yet.”

His Virgin Money appearance caused upset on the left, with claims the Chancellor broke parliamentary protocol by failing to inform the local MP, Chi Onwurah, of his visit.

Ms Onwurah said: “Mr Osborne did not tell me he was visiting my constituency, as is normal parliamentary protocol, but he didn’t do it because he didn’t want the other side of the story to be heard, the one we’re still living here in the North East, where everyone is on average £1600 pounds a year worse off than when this Government came to power, with unemployment still rising and people struggling to deal with the cost of living crisis.

“It’s good news that the economy is back at it 2007 level the figures disguise the fact that whilst the service industry has grown, manufacturing, which is what we need in the North East, is still below where it was.

“The economy may be fixed for Mr ‘We’re all in it together’ Osborne and his friends who can afford to pay £175,000 for a tennis match, but its certainly not fixed for my constituents. This is not an economy which works for ordinary people. That is what Labour would build.”

And union chiefs have also said the Chancellor has overlooked the growing unemployment problem in the North East.

Neil Foster, policy officer for the Northern TUC , said: “The Chancellor appears either unaware or unconcerned that unemployment here increased by 5,000 in the last quarter and for North East women it’s up 12% on the year.

“We desperately want the North to be an economic powerhouse but it was this Chancellor who cut investment in the region, chose to spend most infrastructure funds in London and has overseen an average wage fall of £1,200 a year in real terms for North East workers. George Osborne’s rosy rhetoric is at odds with the reality on the ground for many people here who are really struggling to get by.”

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