Bernard Ginns: There’s still a growing divide despite all the billions spent

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WE are living in a world where the difference between winners and losers is getter ever starker and more pronounced.

You see it in the gap between successful companies and failing companies, the gap between the highest and lowest-paid workers and you see it in cities like Leeds, which is home to some amazing entrepreneurial businesses, but also to shocking numbers of young people who are not involved in any meaningful way with society.

Government figures out last week revealed that the level of young people in Yorkshire not in work, education or training has fallen by 20,000 since last year but remains one of the highest figures in the country.

One in five 16 to 24-year-olds in our region are classed as NEET, according to the latest statistics from the Department for Education. Which frankly should shame us all.

I would encourage our local authorities to step up their efforts in dealing with the human tragedy that is unfolding before our eyes.

The economic and social causes behind the army of NEETs in a city like Leeds are complex and intertwined, but education has to be a priority and it is a scandal that still I hear company directors complaining about the skills shortage in spite of the billions of pounds pumped into the education and social care system.

Local authorities hope to encourage more businesses to take on apprentices and give young people a second chance after their parents and our schools have failed. I hope these efforts are successful – and that businesses support them.

I hear many positive stories from businesses that have taken on apprentices.

There is something to be said for spotting raw talent and shaping it to fit your purposes.

Talking of winners, the man who shorted Bradford & Bingley is back. Hedge fund manager Crispin Odey has a demonstrable ability for second-guessing market trends.

The multi-millionaire is warning that house prices could crash. “Property is ludicrously expensive,” he told the London Evening Standard. “House prices are right at the top of their cycle. I think they could crash. I’m not saying it’ll happen immediately, but I do think they can drop by half.”

He added: “House prices are not stable. They have a cycle like everything else. America has understood this much earlier than the UK. There, house prices have already fallen by 50 per cent and they are affordable.”

I wonder if Britain’s banks and building societies have this kind of crash factored into their risk management strategies.

Mr Odey made his fortune by taking contrarian views on markets and allocating his resources accordingly, often in spite of prevailing wisdom.

He reputedly started short-selling British banks in 2006. He has done very well out of his strategies – he paid himself a bonus of £28m in 2008.

Short-sellers borrow shares and sell them in the market in the hope of buying them back more cheaply at a later date.

Mr Odey has Yorkshire roots and his grandfather George Odey was Conservative MP for Beverley.

Not that he is interested in public life. “I’ve given up with politics,” said the former Tory donor. 
“I don’t know who I’d vote for now. Ed Miliband is even worse than David Cameron. It’s a choice of evils.” Look on the bright side – at least he hasn’t come out in support of UKIP.

On a more hopeful note, I was delighted with the standard of entries for the Local Business Accelerators programme.

The second annual campaign offers free advertising and mentoring from top business leaders for Yorkshire’s most promising young businesses.

As you may recall, the Ilkley Brewery won the national award this year with backing from the Yorkshire Post.

On Friday, the judges and I sat down to sift through the submissions.

They were a diverse and inspiring set. I was particularly impressed with the number of female entrepreneurs who are building up successful businesses for the future.

I just hope they can find the credit when they need it from the banks. We publish the full shortlist on Thursday. Don’t miss it.

Britain’s financial system needs deep-seated change.

It is of fundamental importance to our future prosperity, in that a dysfunctional banking sector will keep us mired in the economic doldrums and prevent Yorkshire SMEs from realising their full potential.

To that end, it is a good decision to bring in someone from the outside, the Canadian Mark Carney, to be the next Governor of the Bank of England. Better him than one of the old guard.