I found Andy Beckett’s magazine piece on the North East partial, lazy and written without recourse to the facts he was presented with on the day and subsequently.
The North East of England has more people in employment today than ever before. In the last year employment has risen fast, with an additional 40,000 people in work today. Over the last three years the economy of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership area has also enjoyed productivity and output growth that has outpaced all other English regions.
Despite being introduced to it on his visit Mr Beckett ignored the fact that that the region’s IT and technology sector has grown to tens of thousands of employees in recent years in companies from the largest financial service outsourcers to high end niche businesses. He also forgot to note that 150 contractors work at the National Renewable Energy Centre at Blyth alongside the 70 core staff on projects that bring technology from around the world to be tested and assured for deployment on global settings. We may as well not have taken him to Nissan’s global training centre for electric vehicle manufacture which sits next to its world class manufacturing plant, directly employing over 6,000, in Washington.
The North East is achieving growth whilst retaining greater levels of equality than any other part of the country. The region has the most equal distribution of salaries in the country, with fewer workers taking home salaries in the bottom ten per cent of national earnings than anywhere else in the country. Again this is not reflected in Mr Beckett’s piece, nor is the fact that once the cost of living is taken into account, average salaries in the North East are worth £3,000 more each year than those of people who have to deal with the daily pollution and congestion of London.
Our trade surplus, the growth in manufacturing employment alongside the rapid rise of our service sector, and the easy access for North Easterners to the unique combination of world heritage sites, National Parks, World Dark Skies Park, stunning beaches and coastal castles were also missed.
From my own perspective the description of my move to the area in 2012 and from the LEP to Atom next week could not be further from the truth. I was brought up in the North East and with my family made a very personal choice to come back here – a decision not made by the Treasury. My decision to resign from the civil service, leave employment certainty and a pension behind and join a group of entrepreneurs to set up the first genuinely digital bank and to base it in the North East means that I am not ‘off’ anywhere. Rather I am making a very clear choice to put roots deep down and build a business in this most distinctive and wonderful area with people whose sights are set a lot higher than your article suggests.
Of course the North East has its share of problems, of which perpetuated myths and under-reporting are two. Mr Beckett is not wholly to blame for the overwhelming attack that the article received on your message boards. Your picture editor should also step out a bit more, preferably facing north.