A JANUARY Declaration committing the region to fighting inequality has caught the eyes of families, politicians and business leaders across the North East.
Some of the region’s most influential sent a joint letter to The Journal this month urging people to back their efforts to make the North East a fairer place.
That call includes a look at the pay gap between the highest and lowest earners.
The Webb Memorial Trust, a charity pushing for greater socially equality, is co-ordinating efforts after 27 of the region’s most influential people said the region has to stop viewing those who earn less to be treated as a burden to the region.
Former Nexus boss Mike Parker, honorary secretary at the trust, said they have had responses from across the region, including Labour MPs Dave Anderson and Catherine McKinnell and Berwick Conservative Anne-Marie Trevelyan.
The need to act, Mr Parker says, was brought home by unemployment figures out this week which showed more and more people in the region out of work.
Latest figures show the unemployment rate was highest in the North East at 12%, as was the 25% inactivity rate. The region also has the highest claimant rate at 7.3%
Mr Parker said: “We have had a fantastic response so far, not just from employers or politicians but from families who want to make their case and agree with the aims of the Declaration.
“Our aim now is to get all the MPs and council leaders on board backing this. Then I think we have to set out an agenda for change from those who are signed up. That means identifying the key issues and challenges and what we can do together to meet them.”
Ms Trevelyan, the Tory spokeswoman for Berwick, said: “I fully support this declaration, I think it is the ideal framework for responsible capitalism in the region.
“And of course we should not be thinking about anyone in the region as a burden but rather setting out clearly what all of us can be doing to ensure everyone has their chance to play their part in ensuring we continue to grow economically.”
Anyone wanting to add their name to the declaration should email email@example.com
Go to page 2 to read the declaration letter >>
A January Declaration for the North East
A new and fairer deal
As we enter the New Year with uncertainty over the prospects for the economy, it is predicted that the incomes of the poorest 10 per cent in this region are likely to fall by 12 per cent. Many more could join the unemployment queue if the economy contracts further, particularly if the Euro crisis hurts our trading partners at a time when more spending cuts affect the public sector. North east local authorities could be hit hard and children, young people and poorer pensioners are vulnerable.
Amid such tough conditions, we need to recognise that poverty is a feature of a weak society and that even those in work - let alone the tens of thousands jobless - can sometimes live below the poverty line as living standards fall. They need not only our sympathy but also, where necessary, our help.
This new reality, we are sure, will be recognised in a region with a tradition of standing together when times get tough. Those out of work, and dependent on benefit - the new jobless, and the longer-term unemployed - need to be treated with respect. No one should be made a scapegoat, as blaming the victims of society's failure solves nothing.
In Scotland, for instance, politicians have put aside their differences to view poverty as an enemy corroding the heart of society. They realise the importance of treating all people with dignity, regardless of income, gender, race, status and background but more is needed in the north east.
We all must pull together to create a better region - companies, charities, local councils, universities, colleges, schools, civil society and individuals - through self-help and, crucially, through pressing the government where necessary for a better deal by allocating scarce resources on a fair and equitable basis across England to ensure a level economic playing field.
In these extremely challenging times, people in positions of responsibility also have to lead by example. Shareholders and local politicians - institutions and individuals - need to recognise that extreme differentials in pay and rewards between top earners and the rest, whether in the private or public sectors, sends out the wrong signals to the vast majority. Ultimately, this is bad for business while undermining a cohesive society.
The north east has much strength - human and natural resources, world-beating research institutions, innovative local authorities, strong local companies, ambitious young people and graduates, social entrepreneurs - which can be harnessed for the benefit of everyone.
Let us pledge in 2012 - in this 'January Declaration' - to work together for the benefit of the region and press, where necessary, for a fair deal from the Government to ensure that we can all play our part in making England, and Britain, stronger and fairer as a whole.
The January declaration means that we will:
- Work together to create a North East, which is good for everyone
- Treat everyone in the region with dignity, regardless of economic status
- Press for a fair deal from Government for this region
:: If you are living in, or are from the North East please add your support by sending us your full contact details in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org putting “I support the January Declaration” in the subject line.