In a passionate debate in the House of Commons last week I highlighted the inequality resulting from the Government’s policies both in their impact on young people and women as well as their disproportionate affect on the North East.
It is clear from the most recent figures that unemployment in the North East is rising at a rate not seen for since the mid-1980s particularly amongst the young. Unemployment benefit claimed by 18-24 year olds in Durham has increased by over 106% in the nine months to October 2011.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect is the uneven way the consequences of the Government’s damaging policies are being felt. The unemployment rate is 11.6% in the North East but it is only 6.3% in the South East.
Once again it is the North East that is bearing the brunt of misguided and unfair Conservative economic policies and I hope that voters in the North East will see that this is happening with the active collusion of the Lib Dems.
It is time for the Government to admit that they have mishandled the economy and adopt a Plan B which should include a tax on bank bonuses to fund 100,000 jobs for young people alongside a reversal of January’s rise in VAT and national insurance tax breaks for every small firm taking on new workers.
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Last week in Parliament I also criticised the extensive proposed budget cuts to regional public sector broadcasting in the North East, including cuts to both BBC Radio Cumbria and Inside Out North East.
Alongside other North East MPs, I spoke in a debate in Westminster Hall on the importance of regional programming to local communities and particularly their importance to some of the most vulnerable people in the region.
I believe lumping the North East in with other Northern areas is simply not good enough. The North is a very large and diverse area made up of several distinct regions and merging these regions will result in regional news specific to the North East as well as vital information such as local weather, being reduced or cut entirely.
I know that such information is key to the most vulnerable members of our communities, including the elderly and those who have little access to the internet and other resources. Many look to local radio for a sense of connection with their community and this is all the more vital at a time when public services are being cut and localised resources are being reduced.
I hope the BBC will listen to the many important points being made about the consequences of planned cuts and think again.
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I was pleased to hear the announcment from Durham County Council this week that the voluntary code of conduct for letting agents will be extended for another year. The code aims to tackle the issue of high numbers of ‘To Let’ signs in some areas of Durham City.
The problem of numerous advertising signs and boards being visible on streets has been the subject of much debate in the city centre, which is a Conservation Area, for considerable time.
Whilst I’m very pleased to see the voluntary code will be operating again this year I feel however that the code’s requirement for the number of boards, at three per agent per street, is still too much. I think one board per agent per street would suffice, to indicate that the agent was marketing houses on that street.
Secondly, I believe the length of time the boards are displayed, from 1st December to 1st March, is too great. Beginning before the students’ Christmas holiday, boards will be up for a month while no students are in Durham to see them. They should therefore be erected only after the Christmas break.
I certainly welcome the other measures in the code, for example size and shape of boards, location and areas to be covered and I would like to thank Durham County Council for their work in this area. I hope they will listen to the points being made about the shortcomings in the current scheme and think again.