As we move into 2018, rebalancing the economy and reducing regional inequality must be the number one priority for all in the region, business leaders, politicians and trade unionists.
Recent analysis by the TUC showed that in 2016 the UK economy grew by 1.6% and London grew by 3.0%, so the story of London moving further way from the rest of the UK continues. Sadly, it is more dismal for the North East where we actually had a fall of 1%.
And it is not just the economy where the North is failing
Getting a great job is key to decent living standards, but in some parts of the UK, your chances of getting one are much lower than in others. It’s yet another sign of a failing economy.
There are various ways we can begin to tackle this issue, giving power back to workers and communities for one. But we should also be pushing for a worker centred industrial strategy that would deliver in five key ways.
Firstly, we know that most businesses say their people are their greatest strength. So industrial strategy must use the workforce to drive up productivity. In every region, unions, businesses and government should come together through sectoral bodies and discuss how to boost pay, productivity and skills.
Secondly, we should make the most of local government, taking our lead from the Welsh government, which is using procurement to bring jobs to the most deprived communities.
Thirdly, we need to seriously invest in skills. In the UK, employer investment is half the EU average and government investment per employee fell by 13.6% between 2007 and 2015. These cuts should be reversed, and devolved adult education funds created.
Fourthly, we need to invest in hard infrastructure like much needed transport development.
Finally, we should deliver new jobs by tackling climate change. Carbon emissions in the Tees Valley are the highest in the UK – and effectively tackling that problem will also create good quality new jobs.
The UK is at a crossroads, and the decisions we make now will shape the lives of a generation of working people. If we get them right, we can spread prosperity and opportunity to every part of our country.
We really need is a serious industrial strategy with a serious regional dimension.