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Nowhere has been hit harder by the economic crisis than here, the


North East and Cumbria. Two years of austerity has cost tens of


thousands of people their jobs and put the squeeze on family incomes.


Where will the jobs of the future come from? And can we find the


skills - and the entrepreneurs - to get this region's economy back on


track? I'm Victoria Derbyshire - welcome to the Look North Debate.


Hello. Our audience this evening comes from right across the North


East and Cumbria - and each has their own story to tell about the


economic crisis. Unemployment in the North East fell last month, but


it's still the highest in Britain. It's particularly tough for


youngsters with one in ten on the dole. But there's another group -


the over 50s - who fear they may never work again. I have worked


here for 37 years. Never thought for one minute I would be finished


at the drop of the hat. There was another 125 people on the same day.


You think, "All them years "and it just took a minute. It is not a


good time to look for a job. Every Thursday I meet with the lads that


were finished the same day as me. You need it to keep you going. They


are in the same position as you and they need help just as much as you.


The job offers aren't there. They are telling you to look for work.


There's thousands upon thousands doing the same. Where do I go? The


last interview I was at, there were two other young lads there. They


looked like two school kids. What I want to know is, am I on the


employment scrapheap? Alan, you can relate to what


happened to Eddie? Yes. I was sacked by AEI Cables, a minute's


notice. How many minutes? minute. I was told, "You are


finished, there's your letter, leave the premises now." It was


called a CVA, which you will be finding out a lot more of in the


near future. Do you feel you are on the scrapheap? I do. I'm a single


parent. I'm finding it hard to get a job. I would love a job. My house


is paid for. I was saving up for the biggest holiday of my life when


I got to 65. Eddie, you are 61. You had worked there for 37 years. What


is it like when that is taken away from you? It is such a shock. You


don't expect it. At least if they are going to sack you, you would


think they would do it in a better way, like, have some morales and


explain why. There was nothing. Some might say you are about to


reach retirement anyway? Unemployment is at a 17-year high


at the minute. They are wanting to sack people at the drop of the hat.


They want to make it easier for employers to sack people. They want


to make it easier put more on the dole, which is a strain on the


economy. All I can hear is, "We have to find jobs for the youth."


There's thousands of people my age who haven't got a job. James is 23


and you are a qualified bricklayer. How long have you been out of work


for? Just under three year. many jobs have you applied for in


that time? A couple of hundred. Have you had an interview?


Nothing? No. I have had a work trial and that was it. That's all I


have had. Do you think it is worse for you, or for gentlemen like Alan


and Eddie? I can understand his point where he's coming from. What


can we do? We have no support from the Government, have we? Especially


people my age. Mickey, you would say you were at the end of your


tether? Definitely. I'm a bricklayer as well. I have been


applying for ten jobs nearly every day, going down London. I have


given myself six to eight month. I'm going to go to Australia, I


think, if I can't get no work. If I do get work, it is only for a


couple of weeks. I cannot get my own place because there is no work


at all. You would consider leaving this country and going thousands of


miles... I'm going to. If I haven't got a permanent job, I have got my


visa so it will happen. You can't blame him. He hasn't got a choice.


The worst thing is, you end up in situation where you have a 23-year-


old sat there who can't get a job, who has been trying for three years


already. These older guys here who have still got a good few years


work left in them and, again, they think that that is it, life is over


work-wise. There is no way we are going to be able to keep youth like


that in this country if they can see a future like this. Let us


retire early at 60 and give the jobs to the youngsters. It would be


a better country to live in. This country is going to the dogs.


me as well, I already know people in Australia that have got work


there and they are getting twice as much more money as me labouring and


I'm doing a trade here. I cannot make a living. How will he get a


job with no experience? You cannot get one. Particularly with me, I


feel as if there is too much competition. If I haven't had a


foot in the door work, there is them who have had over 20 years'


experience, who will they take? will be cheaper! That is the honest


truth. He is right. Last year I applied for a job. The foreman told


me 380 people had applied for that one job and within two months the


company went under. He is right what he is saying there. There's


that many people applying for jobs. You cannot get a decent job. What


do you do? I run a food bank. is a food bank? We provide free


food to people who find themselves in a position where they can't


afford to feed themselves. But that goes across society. We have single


guys like these guys here who come in. They might have spent their


dole money chasing after a job in Berkshire, you know, they come back,


they have got no dole money or food. The gents on the end there, we have


older people who have been made unemployed, they have been sacked


and suddenly, their electricity bills go through the roof,


everything else goes through the roof. The benefits stay down there


and they are finding they have a choice - do they pay the bills or


eat? Do families pay their mortgage or do they eat? Tracy, are you


facing those choices? Yes, my partner works but he is unemployed


at the minute. The work he does, there is no work. We are having to


go on benefits. You use the food bank? Yes. We have to. What do


people think about the fact we live in one of the richest economies in


the world and we have a food bank operating? You can't be proud of


that, can you? This has been - the North East had an unemployment


problem for a lot of years. food bank has only been going for


three weeks? We are now trying to find a way out of the recession. We


have to create the jobs for these people to work. What do you think


of the fact there is a food bank operating in Darlington? I'm from a


charity in Stockton and Sainsbury's provide us with food parcels for -


basically, it is an open-door policy. People from the local


hostels, homeless people... What would happen to these people if...


They would come and get... They would do crime. It is that bad, the


ones at the bottom have got nothing and they are having to beg for food.


How is the private sector going to pull the public sector out when you


are paying the public sector workers off? In terms of why there


is a problem, particularly perhaps regarding private versus public,


Keith tell us why this region has the highest unemployment in the UK?


It's had the highest rate for some considerable time. It's become a


cliche, but there are lots of job opportunities lost in a narrow set


of industries - coal, steel, shipbuilding - and the region never


discovered. -- the region never recovered. The region has always


been playing catch-up. In the last few years, the austerity drive from


the Government has led to hundreds, thousands of public sector workers


being made redundant? One of the measures that the Government


brought in to address this issue was to locate some Government


departments within regions like the North East to try to soak up some


of this unemployment. That has created a dependency on the public


sector. One in three jobs are in the public sector. The North East


is suffering disproportionately. Had the Labour Party won the last


election, that Government would have been making similar cuts in


the public sector? Absolutely not. Yes, we had a huge recession and


yes, there needed to be cuts to the public sector. But what this


Government is doing is it is not only cutting too far and too fast -


because we need growth we cannot cut our way out of the crisis. It


is cutting the wrong thing. It is cutting the Future Jobs Fund.


would have cut jobs in the public sector had you won the last


election? We had to make some cuts... Hang on. What is causing


the problem here is the level of cuts and the fact also because we


have lost 23,000, 32,000 public sector jobs but also 8,000 private


sector jobs in the years since the election. That is because the


private sector is not being invested in to grow. James, are


these public sector jobs a price worth paying? It is very dangerous


to start using language like that. Why? No, no... What lies behind


jobs figures are individuals who are trying to make the best of


their lives. What we all have to do is get the economy in the North


East up and running again. There are a lot of good signs to the


North East economy. It has a long way to go. Unemployment fell by


11,000 in two months. Corus is creating jobs. We have a long way


to go. But some of the positive signs are there. We have to


encourage private sector growth. We will come back to you. Well,


with 53 people chasing every vacancy in parts of the North East


it seems incredible that some businesses can't find the staff


they need. But that's the case at I have been in manufacturing for 48


years. In 2000, we were turning over �4 million. In 2005, we bought


the business. This year, we will be doing �15 million. We are involved


in defence, pharmaceutical equipment, you name it we have been


involved in it. I feel a great deal of pride. We have achieved a lot.


We are adding something to the economy in the North East and the


country as a whole. We could be taking on 20 skilled people


tomorrow, but we can't get the highest skilled people that we need


and the result of that is that we have been turning business away.


Media Studies, health, leisure, beauty, those degree courses are of


no interest to me whatsoever. None of the degrees have been focusing


on manufacturing. My key question is what is the education system


going to do to accelerate the availability of skilled people to


support my growth of my business? Are you producing the wrong


trainees from Gateshead College? Peter can't take on the skilled


workers? I know. I understand what Peter's problem is. Tell us, what


is it? Why can't you solve it? have heard a bit of discussion


going around. The interesting thing about the North East - the North


East has always been - the very thing that Micky talked about - the


thing that happens in the North East when you can't find work, what


do you do? You leave. Then when you get an upsurge in the way Peter has,


he has not got the high-end workers. It takes two or three years to


train those people. Also, the other problem is that people aren't


taking on apprenticeships either. Who else is worried about the lack


of skills or the wrong kind of skills in the region? One of the


problems is that there has been this fetish in Government for


having half of the population going to university and the universities


have been selling students a lie that there's millions of jobs in


Media Studies. That won't happen now that Nick Clegg has decided to


raise tuition fees? We need a lot more apprenticeships. That is one


thing that people have to realise. There's been a massive amount of no


more apprenticeships offered in the North East. Andrew, Andrew's earned


an apprenticeship at Caterpillar, a couple of years ago. Last year, ten


apprenticeships available and there were 510 applicants. What is so


special about you? How did you get it? I don't know. I was lucky, I


suppose. I went to sixth form for two-year and aapplied for an


apprenticeship. The company was in a position where I could be offered


that. That is not the case for everybody. What do you do with


those ten... We put the apprentices through a four-year programme. We


are looking for the skills that we need. There is a shortage within


manufacturing and we are also working in local schools to


encourage children that manufacturing is not a dirty and


dark and dank place to be. There's skills that you can be had. The


earnings potential in gaining a skilled trade, you could get


�200,000 by the time you have finished. You moved your customer


contact centre from Gloucester to Gateshead, Robert. Why? We had two


contact centres. We felt that the service we were getting from the


Gateshead one was exemplary in terms of sales, absence - we find


the North East workforce the best workforce in the country. Every


time we take over a business, we try and create as many North East


jobs - 175 North East jobs in the last two years. Was part of the


decision to move from Gloucester to do with the fact it is cheaper


here? We paid the Newcastle people more than we paid the Gloucester


people. That is interesting. Are you worried about the lack of


skills? Yes, moving forward, one of the statistics I'm familiar with -


there's only 10% of the companies in the manufacturing engineering


sector in the North East. There's 4,800 of them take apprentices on.


So we sort of - we reap what we sow, really. If we don't invest, we


won't have the skills. If you look at offshore on Teesside, there's


zero unemployment in offshore skills. We are employing foreigners


to come and do jobs on Teesside. Offshore didn't have the foresight


to train and educate. That is absurd. There are people here who


could do those jobs but you have to bring foreigners in? I would like


to pick up on a couple of the points from over there. A question


to the economist is, why don't we attract and what is wrong with our


reputation that we don't attract more blue ship plcs to come to the


region? Nissan, the most production car plant in the world - we operate


on Teesside, we have a fantastic workforce. We have still got this


stigma, this reputation that the North East is a dull place to work.


Our football team has struggled! have to invest in the future. One


thing we cannot do. This is where we sometimes fall down. We don't


have the infrastructure. We can't build roads or motorways. We can't


build those world-class projects, so that is all I ever want


Government to do. I don't want Government to support me in


training, I don't need that. I can't build a motorway. So when we


are saying, "Hell us" we don't want major help. We -- are saying, "Help


us", we don't want major help. problem that we have is that when


we are facing significant cuts in public services, we do need to look


at the investment there is in this region in terms of infrastructure,


whether it be road, rail, what other links to the rest of the


country. No-one bats for the North East. Keith, where are the jobs of


the future going to come? If only I knew. That is why we have booked


you! I know. I think it's - to pick up on some of the the other points


- it is about Government creating the conditions within which the


jobs can be created. Companies aren't looking for hand-outs, they


are looking to draw on a stock of reasonably well-educated people


that they can train for the specific disciplines that relate to


their business. Rather perversely, at this time of economic difficulty,


the Government is investing less. So if a company like Amazon wanted


to come to this region, completely outbid and outfought by Scotland


which has all of the infrastructure to take thousands of businesses


north of the border, the region is missing out. It is very important


because we all go out and sell the North East. All too often the


national picture that is presented of the North East is the negative


story. There are a lot of skills and great companies. There are good


roads and good infrastructure in this region. When East Coast Trains


closed a call centre in Newcastle and moved it to Mumbai a


Government-run train operating company, they moved the workers to


Mumbai the Conservative Government done nothing about it at all.


Nothing about it at all! The point I'm making is... I have to say


there is a lot that Government can do. It is important for


Government... There is a lot they can be doing. Would the Labour


Party require that call centre to re-open now if it was in


Government? I bet it wouldn't. It set it up as an arms-length


organisation. The Labour Party believes in active Government.


Answer the question. Would you make that Government-controlled company


re-open that call centre? You are going to privatise it anyway!


Exactly. You can't answer for the industrial policy of this


Government now and you can expecting me to answer in three


years' time? I left school in the '60s. The biggest apprenticeship


pool was in the British Coal, the coal industry, the shipbuilding,


the steel industry, the railways and they were all nationalised


companies. They just churned apprentices out for fun. Now we


have privatised all these industries and they are looking for


profit and money for shareholders, so apprentices, the easy way out.


Let me ask Ian. There is speculation the Chancellor may


scrap national pay rates, national pay bargaining so each region could


work out its own pay for public sector workers which might bring


their pay down so the private sector would be able to match it.


Would that be a good idea? You need flexibility. I know colleagues like


the big bulk bargaining power. If you want to be flexible, the people


that are successful in business are the ones that can move, can change,


people can retrain, get into new jobs. They survive. Should it be


easier to "hire and fire"? should be. Why? People will take


the risk. Not sure how long this job is going to last, but I will


give it a go. I can only look at best three or four months in


advance so am I going to guarantee somebody a job for life? That


employment legislation... You can't do it. That is hampering


businesses? Far too easy to dismiss people in this country already. We


have some of the weakest employment rights anywhere in Europe. I think


it is appalling we have got engaged in a debate that says someone who


does a job in Newcastle that is exactly the same as someone who


does a job in another part of the country should be paid a lot lower.


What we are doing is accepting this area as a low-wage economy if we go


down that line. That is bad for all of us. APPLAUSE Is it not true that


it is more expensive to live in the South East so why should you not be


paid a little bit more in the South East? You will subdue economic


development throughout the whole range. How? You are taking out


money from the economy. You are saying people in the north are


worth less than those in the south. No, you are not. Had I been asked


about it, I would have said I had some concerns about getting rid of


national pay bargaining. If it is going to be done, we have to make


sure it doesn't hit the North East unfairly. I will speak for myself.


You can speak for your union members! It is an important point


that we need to see investment in this region, we need to see people


spend the money they earn in this region. The Government is


increasing the lower tax threshold... James, thousands of


public sector jobs have been sacrificed on your Government's


austerity measures. People who were losing their jobs because they have


very few rights... Can I ask you, Craig, why is it fair that the


average wage for a public sector worker in the North East of England


is 11% higher than the pay for a private sector? Why is it fair?


you do the same job, you should get the same pay. That is not happening.


If you accept this principle, it is the same as the nonsense argument


the Government puts forward in terms of pensions. If you attack


public sector pensions, no-one will have pension provision. We have


businesses all over the UK. It is a fact in private business life in


the South East we have to pay our managers more than we do in the


North East. Our North East managers are better. It is a fact of life to


retain those people, I have to keep them more. The only way for the


North to get back on its feet - and end its reliance on the public


sector - is to grow more new businesses of its own. But have we


got the entrepreneurs ready to take on that challenge? Well, not


everyone's attempt to start their We had a sandwich shop in Gateshead.


We took it over, we did really well for a while. You buy in the correct


foods and whatever. But because there's a recession, people aren't


willing to pay that price. We noticed people taking sandwiches to


work as opposed to calling into the shop. And because of that, we had


to close it down. Standing here it feels really depressing. All that


time, all that energy put into the business and for what? This is


Darren, my partner. He is running a building business. The construction


industry has been hit hugely. Now we are getting to the point you are


using your savings. Once that has gone, that will be the end. We have


already had one failed business. We have another one on the brink. We


need to find out what is the help out there for the likes of us and


if it can happen to us, it can happen to all these other


businesses around here. Darren, Valerie, how much have you


got left in savings? Less than two grand. That is it. If work doesn't


pick up, we will have to close it. We find - we have a building


company and people aren't spending the money, or they want you to keep


the price so tight that you can't make any money. So the balance is


you are giving more out than you are getting in. When that two grand


runs out, then what? Tell me. don't know. I have already asked


the question, but apparently in this country if you try and do it


yourself, and you try and look after yourself, you think you will


have a safety net. We have paid our taxes for years and years. When you


go for the help, it is like, "You are claiming benefits?" No. "I'm


sorry, we can't help you." What are we supposed to do? That is the same


for you? Yes. I work for a charity full-time. I have a 16-year-old


daughter and I want to send her to uni. I'm doing business management.


I do - I would like to have my own business, eventually. There's lots


of worries. I'm really stretched now. I have paid for my course as


well. I don't get any help there. I don't understand why there is not...


You help yourself and you don't get any help? No. People are on


benefits and they don't work. They get everything paid for them. In


actual fact, I would be better off on benefit. That is what we said.


understand why people on benefit stay on benefit. I tell you the


difference, you know that every week or every two weeks, that is


going to happen. However low it is. The likes of us, we just don't have


that. I see people in this position every day. They have taken on


mortgages they can't afford, or businesses that go under. They


never thought they would be in a position where they would have to


look at benefits. Unfortunately, the recession is hitting, but the


Government is taking �18 billion out of the welfare benefits system


and that is going to hit people who are just above the edge. People who


are on benefits will find it difficult to get off benefits


because the margin to get a job is not there. Yvonne has been waiting.


What happened to your jewellery and accessory shop in Maryport?


opened it up five-and-a-half years ago. Initially, it was very, very


good. Then, unfortunately, when Northern Rock collapsed, it hit


Cumbria because they invested in it as well. It literally sliced the


economy. You could literally see it cut in two. What did your


accountant say to you? He said, "Shut the shop!" Simple as that?


Simple as that. You are going under. I knew. I mean, I have been in


business since I was 21. I have always been self-employed. The last


business that we had was in the last recession and that went


bankrupt and we lost our home, we lost everything. Literally, we had


to live in the middle of a field. Now it's happened again, how does


that make you feel? I'm really sad. I'm more sad for the fact that - I


don't feel I have let myself down. I feel I have let the people that I


have grown to like in the shop down. I went into something - I knew


there was something wrong and I thought I have to find a gap.


Michelle, let me ask you about your business. You set up a business in


the middle of the recession, two years ago. I did. What was the


thinking there? I'm thinking, "Was I a fool?" My business is luxury


lingerie, I had the option to do standard lingerie or luxury. I went


for the luxury market. We are exporting to 14 countries. We are


based in Gateshead. I'm so proud of being from the North East. We need


to look at some of the positives about living here. I have been


given a hell of a lot of support from Gateshead Council and the


University of Northumbria. How is the business doing? It is doing


really well. I need to thank all of my students who have helped me get


by. I have been to the job tenner. My business is run by me and two or


three of the in -- I have been to the Jobcentre. My business is in


run by me and two or three of the students. What is frustrating you


at the moment, Jalf? There are fantastic opportunities. There are


always opportunities in the recession. You need to find the


right product for the right market. If you are forward-thinking, you


could still make a successful business. In order to fund it, the


Regional Development Agency has gone, the small loans guarantee


scheme, which was in existence a few years ago, that's gone, and the


Banks aren't giving any money regardless of how good your


business plans are. They have said blank to the restaurant industry


they are not borrowing at all. We could create jobs and create new


businesses but we don't have the means to do so. James, the


Coalition Government has been putting pressure on banks, it is


not happening in the North East? Some banks are looking at whole


sectors of commerce and saying, "We are not going to lend to


restaurants." Why don't you have a word? Talk to the Bank managers?


are aware of what the problem is. We have to facilitate it. You are


right. There are huge numbers... Who runs the country, the Banks or


the politicians? The politicians don't run the Banks. Everything is


arms-length but it is our money. is. There are huge numbers of


entrepreneurs in the North East and across the country who want to do...


Why are you laughing? The previous Government's policy was to be at


arms-length when we were offering support, we set up the RDAs...


couldn't make the Banks lend either, let's be honest? They would be


saying the same. We would have much... She would be saying the


same. It is like a game of tennis! If you were in power, it would be


the same thing. You would be blaming him. I have to say if you


believe that, if everyone believes that no Government makes a


difference, that is the reason why we get the... It is our fault!


last four years of your power, you were no better, if not worse, than


the Tories are at the moment. had the Future Jobs Fund which


would have given jobs to these people. We had the National Health


Service... Hang on a minute. Phil? I don't want a party political


argument. The Bank loans go beyond restaurants. We are in a


manufacturing industry. We have suppliers in our supply chain that


can't buy raw materials to supply my factory. We are a very solid


business. We is suppliers that can't buy steel. I have to say,


with the Banks, I went with an order book of �26,000 of orders and


said, "I have these orders. If you give me the money, I can supply


these orders." "Sorry, we are not going to give you the money." So


those orders went. That is crazy. I want to bring you some research.


Experian say the North East has the highest number of young small


companies with the potential to grow and create new jobs. They call


these companies business champions. Newcastle and Middlesbrough are in


the top ten local authorities for business champions. Steve, you run


such a company. What is it? Basically, we put high-resolution


graphics on shutters, shop shutters, or basically any shutters. When the


shuts are down, companies can advertise? Yes, it can be used as a


cost-effective form of advertising, or just to brighten up - our


mission statement is to brighten up Britain. OK. Keith, are you upbeat


because of this research? I wish I was. There are clearly some great


examples of these companies, but if they believe that they have found


the formula to identify growth companies, that is the Holy Grail


of economic development. Sadly, I don't think that is going to be the


case. One of the reasons why the region has come out well is because


there has been a little bit of an upsurge in new businesses starting.


The business base is so small that relatively it looks as if there's


lots of new young businesses, but it is also a reflection of the fact


there aren't that many businesses in this region. OK. There's plenty


of empty shops... Can I say, instead of having party political


argpts full of -- arguments full of bluster, why don't the parties get


together, get those guys into work, in some form, get that guy's


business going again, promote this region, do what they can for this


region, get this guy apprentices. If they acted like adults, they


would do some good. Well said. APPLAUSE Thank you, Craig. We are


One NorthEast! I would like to end with some final thoughts from the


three people we featured in our short films. Really to get your


thoughts about how you are feeling about your future, Eddie? I haven't


got a future. Not in work. There isn't anything there. They can


argue as much as they like. Unless they find the jobs and the jobs are


there, you have had it. Peter? can correct one thing that was said


before about not investing in apprentices. Our business invests


very strongly in apprentices. We have 10% of our workforce who are


apprentices. Are you optimistic about the future? Generally,


optimistic. Valerie? I think it's - there is nothing worse than being


on these programmes and you have different political parties


fighting. Get together and put it right. We have a great country.


Thank you very much. APPLAUSE And that's about it from us, we're out


of time. My thanks to everyone in our audience and to you at home for


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