Bouncing back from recession

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THE fact that the recession was deeper in Yorkshire than any other region of the UK is evidence of the scale of the economic and political challenge still facing policy-makers.

Because output fell by 14 per cent between 2007 and 2011 according to new data, this is the amount of growth that needs to be engineered before this county can return to the level of prosperity that it enjoyed prior to the financial crash.

It will not be easy. For, while the region is now enjoying a period of growth, the rate of progress is still very steady and the fragility of Yorkshire’s economy was highlighted earlier this week when UK Coal suggested that Kellingley Colliery could close with the loss of 700 jobs.

In the context of the national recovery, 700 jobs is a relatively small number as David Cameron’s government hail the record number of people who are now in employment. But the buoyancy being experienced in London and the South East is not being replicated evenly across the country and redundancies on this scale could have a devastating impact on Cottingley, a mining community already blighted by an above-average level of joblessness.

As such, Mr Cameron cannot afford to take Yorkshire taxpayers for granted if he’s to win their backing in next year’s election. Quite the opposite. The Prime Minister now needs to show that his commitment to narrowing the North-South divide extends beyond HS2.

Three things need to happen. The creation of new jobs in the private industry needs to offset further cuts to the public sector. Young people will not prosper unless they are trained in the key skills, an issue that pre-dates the recession. And Yorkshire will only progress if the Government continues to overhaul the region’s infrastructure, whether it be more frequent train services or rural residents having swifter access to broadband.

There’s much still to do.

Transplants must not be abused

in allowing heavy drinkers to be considered for a new liver, NHS Blood and Transport Service’s associate medical director James Neuberger says: “We transplant humans, not angels.”

These five words go to the heart of an ethical debate about whether the gift of life, in the form of a new organ, should be available to those people who drank to excess in spite of public health campaigns.

Mr Neuberger’s position is understandable in some regards. The NHS has a duty of care to all patients – heavy smokers are another example – and it should not be expected to pass judgement on the character or lifestyle of those waiting for a transplant.

Yet, at the end of a week that has seen North Yorkshire health chiefs finally lift some of their financial restrictions on IVF treatment for infertile couples trying to conceive a child, many people will need far more convincing about spending large sums of public money on life-saving transplants for heavy drinkers and smokers – even more so when they recall how the flawed footballing genius George Best used and abused his new liver towards the end of his life.

If he had actually heeded the advice about the perils of drinking to excess, the Manchester United’s maestro life may not have ended prematurely. And, because of this legacy and the continuing shortage of donor organs, it would be remiss if the needs of these reckless individuals took preference over those who suffered the misfortune of being struck down by causes beyond their control.

What is the role of councillors?

SHOULD LOCAL councillors toe their party line or operate without fear or favour? It is a question that becomes even more pertinent following the de-selection of Cottingham councillors Geraldine Mathieson and Lena Slater whose outspokenness appears to have upset the Conservative hierarchy in the East Riding.

Irrespective of the machinations involved, this appears to be further evidence of the extent to which local government has become politicised and is now far removed from the time when councillors gave their time for free and operated on a non-partisan basis.

Coming so soon after the acrimonious de-selection of Thirsk and Malton MP Anne McIntosh, the Conservative’s only female MP in Yorkshire and the North East, this is another embarrassing episode for the party following claims of bullying by a third councillor, Nick Evans, who quit the East Riding Tory group in January. Yet, for it to be resolved, there needs to be a clearer understanding about the role of councillors – and where their priorities lie.