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The North West Tonight Debate

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It's 20 years since Bill Clinton immortalised the phrase, "it's the


economy, stupid". He was referring then to the crisis hitting the US


committee in the 1990s. That phrase works just as well today here in


Britain. In particular, in the North West. We're here at the


Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, a shrine to our


industrial heritage. What about our industrial future? In a special


North West Tonight Debate we're asking, what is being done? What


isn't being done? What should be A warm welcome to you at home and


to everybody here, our guests at the Museum of Science and Industry.


Each one of these people has a vested interest in making sure the


North West economy is a huge success in the future. Where do we


stand today? In the week when the Budget is to be announced. We have


heard, haven't we, the potential that public sector workers may have


their pay frozen to bring in line with private sector pay. That will


hit workers here in the North West we will talk about that and much


more. Before we check on the state of the economy here, let's check


what our state of mind is, first of all. A straw poll, who of you here,


no matter what is going on, feels optimistic about the North West's


economy? Pretty much. Max, you put your hand up. Why? Investment is


still going into the North West. Jaguar Land Rover, the new mercy


crossing. The Government has to carry on helping us and meet us


half way. We need a Government who can help us with growth and we can


continue to be optimistic. feels pessimistic? As a recent


post-graduate there is little for job opportunities. Whatever


investment has come into the region it hasn't filtered to us. When I


apply for a job there is 1,000 applying for the job. The prospects


for me are limited at the moment. We know that everyone is feeling


the pinch in their back pocket, for some people it's harder than most.


Here is one story. My name is Tammy, I'm 24, I'm a carer for the elderly.


I live in Blackpool. I'm married, for four years. I have two boys.


Andrew is age six and Adrian is aged four. I spend money on my


council tax, rent, gas, water and electric. I'm cutting back on my


food and shopping to save for electric and gas. I feel that we


are being punished for working really. When we were on benefits it


was easier. I make a budget list every week of what I have to pay


out. At the end of it, it seems a small amount what is left. I would


like to know when the cost of living is going to come down? We


don't have a crystal ball, we do have Professor Alan Harding, an


expert in the economy. When is the cost of living going to come down,


what is your sense? Don't hold your breath would be my short answer to


that question. There are two sides of this, aren't there? The way we


experience the cost of living depends on what we earn. Partly on


the cost of the stuff that we consume. On the earning side you


will talk later on in the programme about the squeeze on earnings in


the public and private sectors in recent years. On the other side, we


know the cost of certain things. If you bought a computer five years


ago you can get get a Bert computer than less than you paid then,


energy, housing, food. Three big items in every family's expenditure.


It's all going up. You talk about energy. Here is a really


interesting statistic. The average debt to gas and electricity


companies has more than doubled since 2005. If a person owed �320


before they now owe �640. The number of people isn't going up.


The poor are getting poorer. Tory MP, what are you doing about it?


It's important to note that inflation will be coming down


according to forecasts. That is good news. The Government made


important steps in reducing what would of been the price of fuel


under the previous government by 6p. It's important to keep on tackling


the deficit. We will keep interest rates low and mortgage payments low


which are important for households who are struggling to pay their


mortgage payments. Is it worth the price we are paying? I have a young


family of my own as well. You are a single mum. You won Dragon's Den?


have a little boy. Similar situation to Tammy. It's hard.


People are spending more. It's easy to get things on finance. You see


adverts, "borrow money" it's 3,000% APR. So easy to borrow money and


get things on finance nowadays. What Tammy said she used to be


better on benefits. The changes to tax credits will mean that hard-


working families are �65 a week worse off. Unless they get extra


hours they will lose the tax credits. They could say to families,


we will not penalise because you are prepared to get out of work and


look after your family. There are other ways. We will change things


with the Work Programme. 1 months. She could lose �65 a week. She


can't manage. Let's see what the Chancellor has to say in the Budget.


We made significant progress in terms of getting people out of tax.


We made significant progress. Let's see what the Chancellor does. That


is a real opportunity. You run a hair and beauty salon. What are


people telling you about how life is? A lot of my clients have lost


their jobs. Some of them have take an cut in their salary. It's had a


serious impact on my business. The only way we have been able to


combat it really is do special offers and... What - how do you


respond to what he is saying about how they are helping the poor not


to get poorer? I don't see how it will balance out the way the


Government planned to deal with this issue. One of the reasons why


is because I have girls who work for me, young girls, with families,


similar to your self- -- yourself. They are struggling anyway. I'm the


owner of a small business. If I'm expected to give them more hours,


then some of them are going to have to go. If you look at what people


are saying about the North West economy, we heard about good news


and the manpower surveys more businesss are optimistic about


taking more people on. We have to create an environment where there


are more jobs. Is it really working? It is. You had your hand


up there. See something believing. Go around the Trafford Centre and


have a look, how many shops are closing down? We had 10,000 square


footrest raupbt much we closed it down because of the rent prices. We


have a unit down stairs, the rents are going up. The big boys should


work... We will talk about the demise of the high street. You


travelled from Cumbria Tony to be here. You are interested in how the


fuel, you know, the cost of petrol is strangling people's domestic


budgets. What do you want the Government to do about it?


Certainly, the cost of fuel and energy generally is a major problem,


not just for me and for others as individuals, as a small business,


the energy costs we pay are crippling. My gas bill typically is


about �200 a month. The electricity is not far short. That makes it


very hard for any small business to survive. Is it difficult in Cumbria


where using your car is the only way of getting about in a lot of


cases? Getting around in Cumbria is a maidge o problem for businesses


and visitors. You wanted to put your hand up there, Norman? For me,


the economy has spent the last four years tightening the budgets,


working within tight constraints. We are being told that the future


growth of the economy is going to come from the SME market. Small


business. There is no long-term strategy or direction to give us


that confidence to drive our businesses forward. We are talking


about business economy, what about personal economy? I hear what you


are saying regarding how you will stimulate growth and jobs. If that


is not translating into something real on the ground for people like


me, and other people who are highly skilled - Is it the government's


responsibility, do you not have to have personal responsibility, we


are in difficult times, we are spending on the never ever...


applied for 100 jobs and got two interviews that is not filtering


through to people like me. We will move on and come back to that. What


you were saying about high street and boarded up shops. We are


feeling the pinch in our own pockets, we are not buying as much


that leads to boarded up shops. Here is one story. I own a men's


shop. We found it difficult over the last few years. Last year we


thought we were going to go under. It was the worse year I had in


retail. There were a lot of empty shopss. Businesses closing down.


Woolworths went and other stores went. Half of the town centre was


empty. The VAT came as a surprise. That didn't help at all. The


business rates have gone up. We never had a decrease. The Trafford


Centre around the corn certificate free parking. Here it is difficult


to park. How can we get customers back on the high street spending


money? Meet Michael Jones, it's a different situation. We imagine


chestshire East doesn't have as many problems, what are you doing?


We are working with the local businesss to make it work. We


published a prospectus saying we are open for business. Come and


invest in our high street. You can't rely on big stores coming


down. You have to look at boutiques and get the community involved. We


are doing that. In maxles field we are doing well with local markets.


We haven't had much help in stock Stockport, we have been neglected


over the last few years. When the recession hit in, Trafford Centre


around the corner, free parking all the empty shopss, businesses are


going down. Come to maxles field. We are getting the community who


are creating community-led solution including our weekly market. There


are community resolutions we can find working in partnership with


councils and businesses. We are seeing success. Absolutely. I agree


with Michael, I think the community issue is an important issue. Come


to Stockport it's divided than Macclesfield. What was your


perspective on it? It's important to improve the environment around


shops. Where I live in Marple, four miles away, there are street


markets regularly. There are food festivals. That comes from the


bottom up. That comes from businesses wanting to improve their


local district. That made a huge impact. Where do you get the sense


of community spirit from. The North West has the highest proportion of


vacant shop units of any UK region. 20%. Almost 20%. Hazel, and Anne,


at the back When I was in government we set up a project to


bring life back to shopping centres. This problem has been around for a


long time. That meant local councils giving you relief on your


rates, water. The cost that is strangle small businesses. We could


do something about the VAT. When the VAT went up, I bet your sales


went down? We could have a temporary reduction in VAT. Put


money in people's pockets. At the moment, people are not spending


because people, like Tammy, have no money to spend. When councils can't


raise council tax, business rates are bound to go up, they have to


find their revenue from somewhere? We have been lucky. We got the


community together. We just outside Stockport, at the bottom of the


food chain. We have a fish and chip shop there. We took a leap of faith.


Shops were closing down at the rate of one every two months much we


decided to open one of the efforty units. The council were supportive.


The precinct is on the up. Who can give support and ideas to him, he


wants to make a success of business? We need to look at the


parking situation. You can't go into Manchester. If you look at


House of Fraser, �6 to park. If you have a system where you get the


redemption back. Parking is killing. It's a huge issue. I understand


that Redcar abolished car parking charges and retail sales went up


25% as a consequence. Max, and Michael, max your view? I mean, I


think Liverpool is doing well. Actually the whole shopping estate


in Liverpool isn't doing well. We had a historical pattern in the


north North West that we have to look at again. Not every part of


the shopping viability in the North West can provide for the future.


People have to change. Do we have to go, the high street is dying, we


can't do anything to save it. Is that the future? I think the high


street is the future. It will not be normal shops, services, exciting


things like farmer's markets. You could do a fashion shop show. In


London there are fashion shops. If you have a fashion show you could


get more people. You are in a business, what is your suggestion?


You have to be pro-active and think of ways to encourage people to use


your business. You have to think outside of the box. When business


rates are going up, VAT is going up, you are on a down ward spiral, how


do you do that? How do councils support businesses? We talk to


retailers and the owners of properties like Scottish Widows and


talking about how to develop the new future. It's over for the


traditional high street. Do we accept that? It is over for the


traditional high street it's the community high street. There is an


opportunity for everyone. It's about entertainment, eating, night


life. It's about providing the offer that brings people out who


will spend six or seven hours doing a range of things in which shopping


is part of it. Who is spearheading this? Who will do this? Some of the


work that happened before with the Mary Portas project which will


energise communities and give greater empowerment to them. There


is an opportunity to become a Porta pilot. We are doing that in


Macclesfield. There will be other communities bidding against us,


that is great. There has been a shift in the people's spending


habits. Technology allowed people to buy in different ways. It's very,


very different now. I have a relative of mine who has a small


shop, they do most of their business in dress making over


Facebook, by having a virtual shop so they have a presence somewhere


else. People are calling and asking for dresses from here and there.


it a case of adapt or die? You have to adapt and bring in new ideas and


change to give it an increase. hope that you do that. We want you


to succeed. Absolutely. That is what is happening on the high


street. Let's talk about what is happening in the public sector,


shall we now. Huge story there. We have seen cuts to libraries, social


services, benefits and, ultimately, for some it means the end of their


job. My name is Brian, I have worked here for 33 years. The


company was opened after the Second World War. They opened about 17


sites at the beginning. We ended up with 90 odd sites. We are now in a


place where they want to close everything. They will throw us on


the scrap heap. I'm at the end. They have taken my job away, my


dignity away. They are taking the reason why I get up in the morning.


They are taking my life away. Can you tell me, how is this going to


help me as a person, and other disabled people, when you are


making us redundant? Very powerful film there from you Brian. Jackie,


you work with Breakthrough UK, you help disabled people. You get a


sense there that losing your job is not only about losing your job, but


also your dignity? You are absolutely. The unemployment rate


of disabled people is twice that of non-disabled people. There is some


work to do with employers to encourage employers to understand


that the barriers that disable people face in the workplace are


something they can do something about easily. Brian, presumably,


your point is, look, everybody is struggling to get a job, by these


cuts you feel more unfairly targeted, do you? Yes. Talk to


David. Remploy, you are going to close Remploy down. I don't think


you have thought it through at all. You want to put 1,700 people this


time on the dole. I know you are going to say you will find...


do you work, where? Wigan. I was speaking to a business on Friday


who employ, or contract out to Remploy, in Bolton. They were


asking me about the situation. What they are keen to do is to seek to


reemploy some of the people from Remploy to give them the work. They


do a fantastic job. The problem with Remploy. This isn't trying to


focus in on making things difficult for disabled people, it's the


overheads have been staggering, the cost of trying to provide the jobs.


We need to tackle that and make sure we can build on your skills


and find you jobs through private - What are the figures? I don't have


them. It was �25,000 per head. That is wrong, it's �18,000. That is a


high statistic. There are lower cost solutions that will help you


use your kills. Let's find a solution to get the skills and keep


the people in the jobs. Jackie? There are different solutions.


Remploy was set up after the Second World War to get disabled ex-


service men and women into work. It's out dated in the way it


provides services, in the way in which it provides employment for


disabled people, it needs to move on and move on koct constructively.


Subsidising people into work isn't the way forward. You can get eight


people into work for every one that you subsidise in Remploy. What


would you d for Brian, have the cuts been fair? They haven't been


fair, no. It's very difficult for people who are losing long-term


employment. There should be ways in which that money is spent


productively to ensure that more disabled people get employment. One


in five disabled people, one in five people are disabled in the


North West. That is a huge chunk of the economy, both from spending


power and from... If they are not employed a huge waste of energy.


You wanted to say something? biggest fear, along with Brian, is


knowing there are 2.5 million people unemployed across the


country, by now making up to 1,760, which could follow up to nearly


3,000 furthermore disabled people, my biggest fear is, what quality of


life is a disabled person, am I going to have, knowing I will be


made redundant. This government is making me redundant. What quality


of life have I? Jackie said there is 100,000 in the North West.


Remploy is not just a business, it's a community for them people.


understand. What I think we need to do is find other solutions where


they are mutual organisations, get people together with the skills you


are able to use. Based on my experience there are people out


there who want it take you on. Want to employ people who worked at


Remploy. Let's find solutions for them. It isn't just about a


disabled situation. It's a wider. 23% of people in the North West


work in the public sector. We rely on public sector jobs here more


anywhere else. Steve Stock from unison, what impact is this


potential pay freeze going to have that we heard about just this


weekend? Not potential. It's happening. Local government workers


have had two years of a pay freeze, in their third year. Will it


unfairly impact people up here? pay freezes here and its hitting


the pockets of ordinary workers very hard. Very hard indeed. Brian?


I am member of the Nation until -- National Museum. At the moment


there were so much trimming. You mentioned about public sector and


voluntary sector. Year-on-year cuts by DCMS. What is that Department of


Culture, Media and Sport. This cutting we had about 18 voluntary


retirement from last year. Now we have to face the next cut. It's 150.


Where are the jobs going to come from? Who has an answer? It's not


about the pay freezes, it's about job losses. 635 public sector


workers jobs lost erday since this Government came into power. We are


too dependant on the public sector in the North West. Over the ten


years before the credit crunch 117,000 public sector jobs, only


17,000 in the private sector. wants to take this on. It's easy to


use that phrase. What about the nurses, the people who work in the


health service, carers, front line staff doing essential jobs. The


women in the North West have been hard hit by the public sector cuts,


they are low paid, part-time workers. It's easy to use that


emotive language, bobbies on the beat and nurses. 23% of the


workforce being in the public sector that creates a culture of


dependency not one of entrepreneurship and invasion. We


need more people like Kirstie, sat next to you. I want my police


officers when I'm in trouble. I want them to be there for me.


growth has to come from the private sector. The SME's are important to


our national and regional economy they are the engine of growth.


Banks should not be funding start- ups. Banks need to lend where they


will get 99% certainty to get their money back. There is funding


available. It's not as easy as walking down to your bank. They


need to be informed to understand that. Let's look at one person's


story about, who is struggling to find a job and we will carry on


this debate. I'm 20 years of age and looking for a job. I went to


college and did my Level 1 Child Care. I got a contracted job as a


teaching assistant. While I was on the course we learnt job skills,


interview techniques, motivation. To get a job I'm looking online, on


different websites and in the paper or on the Jobcentre information


page. I come back here a lot to use the computers and there are staff


around if I need a hand. Not having a job is really hard when you are


paying your own bills much you want to support yourself really. I would


like to know what is being done to help people like me find work?


Coral is here sitting next to Luke. You have a history degree, what are


you doing for work? I'm working in a supermarket. What value does your


degree hold? In the workplace I have there are four people with


degrees and one with a PHD. That is saying something is wrong. It's a


job afterall, are you grateful for the job? I am. I took forever,


almost it seems like, to get this job. What does that tell us? What


does that tell us about where we are? Talk to Luke, what does this


tell us where we are in the North West when one with a degree is


working in a supermarket and is grateful for it. We have 80% of the


Morrison jobs for local people by battling. The issue around


graduates, it's heartbreaking when you are worked, seen yourself


through college and great ambitions. Some jobs in supermarkets could


lead you to the Board. We need investment in this region.


Investment in our creative industries. We have great business


people in the room. Kevin here, Norman here. Investment in bio


sciences in this region could help to drive the economy. Aet's find


out. From my experience, we have recruited 15 people last year. I


took technical sales graduate on this year. You are quite correct, I


had 300 CVs that came through the door for that one position. It's


very heartbreaking when you see people who work very hard, spent


time getting these degrees. The jobs aren't there. We can create a


number of jobs. We can't take this... Make this gap up. It's very


difficult. I've children who are going through university right now.


They will face the same situation. Let's look at one statistic. North


West saw the biggest rise of unemployment in any UK region


between November and January, 16,000. Is it a case now of


thinking, forget your history degree, it's not a passion, it


might not get you a job. Is it apprenticeships? The skills have to


be pointing in the right direction in the skills that will grow. If


our fund, we have three sector funds. Do we have the skill set in


the North West? Are we informing young people enough... We selected


those sectors because there is a experience pool in the North West


of great facilities, media cities on the creative side. It will take


time. We have 500 apprenticeship s. Young people need to know about


that. I have a sense that everything has been drawn to London.


It's all going down south. We need a champion for the North West who


will speak up, be our advocate and get our young people into jobs. Yes


it is. It is going down to London now. The Government drivers say to


me there are no ministers doing visits in the North West much we


need a champ champion up here that will make our case. Norman, you are


an employer. What is their future here? I don't think it will be


fixed with one simple thing. We have to look at long-term strategy.


We have to look at some sensible, short-term solutions which will


inspire confidence and give us growth. How will that help Luke and


Coral. Coral what, what do you think? I have been on different


courses. I have been on the return to work course, I have got the


skills. I don't have a degree or nothing like that. What I do have


is the experience and stuff. I'm keen to work. I did have a job,


which was cut because it was only a contracted job because of funding.


I find it really hard there isn't anything there. I agree with the


point about long-term strategies. There is no simple answer. We need


in the North West the climate for entrepreneurship, the guys on my


right had a student loan. Why aren't we lending at young people


at 16 or 17 who want to set up their own business? This country


50% want to be in business. We need to ask the Government through the


Budget to create a climate where young people, who haven't done a


history degree, nothing wrong with that, go with their skills and


create that entrepreneurship. are from Tranmere University, what


do you think? What Hazel was saying before, there isn't enough


education given to 16, 17, 18-year- old in terms of where to go to get


this help. Luke is saying that he doesn't know these courses and


everything that he can to get experience. There is not enough


education. In the midst of all this gloom, we are going to talk success


and the future and where the answers maybe. Take a look at this.


I'm Kevin Bird of EDM Limited we are a specialist training and


simulation company providing exports around the world. We


manufacturer training and simulation equipment include bg


cockpit trainers. Our markets have been Ministry of Defence, but we


recognised that we had to move overseas to develop further.


Throughout this recession we have grown the business. We have


continued to be able to recruit staff and we have focused on


creating apprenticeships within the business. China is a developing


market in terms of international air traffic. We recognise that


training in that sector was going to be a progressive business for us.


We need Government to be supportive and strategic for us and for


business across this country to export our way out of the trouble


that we are currently in. Kevin there, who is here, is the man who


could give work to Luke or to Coral or anybody else looking for it. Are


you doing enough to support people like Kevin who want to help the


North West economy? Absolutely. you Absolutely. The SMEs and the


growth SMEs generate are fundamental to our future. Whether


it's growth or export markets or getting into a new market on a


domestic front if you need investment for that that is what we


are here to do and drive employment as part of that. The North West is


ranked second in the UK for export- led growth potential. That is what


we are told here. Is that where we need to be looking? We used to be,


with the Port of Liverpool, we used to look out on the world and the


world came to us, is that what we need to do again? We are working


within severely constrained times. In terms of lending, you have to


have a healthy balance sheet. You have to have a good performing


company. How do you get to that point? It's a catch 22. Providing


employment is critical to any business moving forward. Have you


to think outside the box and stay one to 10 steps ahead of your


competition. The future is in the new mind sets coming threw.


came from the south and set up business in the North West whasm is


unique about where we live? What can we offer? Let's be positive?


Have a dynamic environment. It's about people, you are absolutely


right. The amount of enthusiasm and commitment and passion in this


region is outstanding. I have not experienced it anywhere else.


What is happening at the moment is this realisation that there are


opportunities in a global economy. No good to just think you can sell


to the guy down the road. It's about thinking there are


opportunities in India, China and using the opportunities from export


licences, from credit support, for businesses like his to go overseas


and sell their wares. Kirstie, what is it you do, food? Healthy food


brand called Kirsties. I was on Dragon's Den because I could not


get money from mi why else. If I go to the bank, if I went to the bank


two years ago, with an attempted business plan, I didn't know how to


write one. It was a no, no. They say they are lending, they are not.


We have to go to other places to get finance. You have to look out


for where... The Chinese market, is that where we have to be looking?


The growth sector is our students. I was at Manchester University,


10,000 Chinese study in the North West from Lancaster, Preston, all


over. 10,000, 20,000 fees, plus living, all the industry to


everybody. You think the academia. If Tranmere were to open a shop in


China, you would make a fortune. Take that back with you. The last


bit I want to say. In the North West there is no, in the North West


we have something to say. There is a cohesive policy it's


disintegrated. We have Cheshire enterprise, who is going to lead


intervention? Two comments. One from Max and Alan? You have to be


ambitious. We went to Shanghai. We signed over 50 deals ranging from


�5,000 to �500,000. The markets are there. They will come to this


country and invest. We have to look outwards and that is where our


money will come from that is where our economy will come from?


Absolutely. Universities are big global businesses in their own


right. Who worries me is that the more we go down in concentrating


research resources into many few places, they happen to be in the


south, Oxford, Cambridge and London, the more we ignore the development


of those things we are good at. North West, Kevin, we end with you.


The North West, what position are we in from your point of view, is


there something we can go away going, yeah, we should be positive,


no matter what? We have a great heritage. A will the of businesses


started in the north west. If you are pro-active and focused and you


can see opportunities, there are, there are success stories out there.


Businesses can grow. Businesses can develop. It -- it will have to be


exports. That is where we will end it. Brian, Luke, Coral, anybody in


our film, thank you very much. Thank you all for coming. Straw


poll at the end. How many of you feel more positive? Anybody more


optimistic now than they were at the beginning? You are waivering.


There are fewer of you optimistic now. Right, OK. Thank you so much


for all of you being here. The Budget is this week. We will be


waiting with bated breath to see what George Osborne has to deliver.


You can follow any of those developments across the BBC on


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