40-somethings paying the price

THE conclusion that people in their 40s are the least likely to have felt the benefits of the economic recovery is not a particularly earth-shattering revelation.

After all, theirs is the generation that has found itself caught in a perfect storm of financial pressures. Likely to be repaying a mortgage on a property bought during the last housing bubble, the freeze in interest rates has afforded them only slight relief.

The fact that the cost of housing is spiralling once more, combined with high youth unemployment, also means parents in this age group are having to extend financial help to their children for longer, whether it be to get them on the first rung of the housing ladder before it moves completely out of reach or simply subsidising everyday essentials.

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At the same time, longer life expectancy leaves those in their 40s finding themselves having to support parents for longer and often paying for their care – the soaring cost of which almost invariably swallows up any profit made on the sale of their parents’ home.

Added to this are those factors that continue to affect the vast majority of the country’s working population – the most damaging being stagnant wages that are failing to keep pace with the cost of everything from petrol to food and leisure activities.

With this age group among the most likely to vote, it is essential that David Cameron and George Osborne show that they both acknowledge and empathise with the strain they are under, while pursuing policies that will help to alleviate the burden.

The good news is that the recovery is at least underway, even if the effects are taking longer to filter through than hoped. The key question is whether a Labour government could be trusted to keep the economy on this upward curve long enough for even more families to feel the benefits.

Rail plan’s green light – at last

IT would be churlish, given the disparity in transport funding between London and Yorkshire, not to welcome the Department for Transport’s decision to spend £9.5m on two much-needed new railway stations on a key commuter route between Leeds and Bradford – even if it is 10 years since this plan was first advocated.

Both proposed stations illustrate the importance of the railways to the region. The Kirkstall Forge stop will be the centrepiece of a major £400m regeneration project that will feature 1,000 new homes on a brownfield site, another plus, while the location of the Apperley Bridge station is intended to persuade commuters to leave their cars at home.

Despite the frustrating delays, it is also to the credit of Patrick McLoughlin, the current Transport Secretary, that he has recognised the importance of these two schemes – at least he understands the needs of the North, unlike so many of his predecessors whose policy-making was too London-centric for the country’s good.

However these new stations will only fulfil their potential if the trains servicing them are able to meet the expectations of the travelling public. First, additional rolling stock will need to be sourced – the routes in question are already desperately overcrowded during rush hours.

Second, Network Rail – and others – need to accelerate plans to increase the capacity of the rail network around Leeds so more trains can operate at critical periods of the day. Waiting for HS2 will be too late; this process needs to begin now and run alongside Britain’s high-speed rail revolution.

Yarm must return to its roots

NOW that the good people of Yarm have spoken, there is no reason why this popular market town should not return to its roots officially – in North Yorkshire. After all, Yarm still has a historic affinity to the white rose county. It featured in the Domesday Book of 1086 – it was originally a chapelry in the Kirklevington parish of the North Riding – and only left God’s own county as a result of a botched local government reorganisation in the 1970s.

This saw Yarm ostracised and left to become part of Stockton-on-Tees in the newly-created artificial county of Cleveland which, in turn, was abolished in 1996 when unitary councils were introduced.

After all, this community still prides itself as being in Yorkshire, geographically-speaking, and has far less in common with the industrial expanse of Middlesbrough on the north side of the River Tees, and where political leaders are taking decisions which appear to be detrimental to the wishes of Yarm’s residents.