Clegg accused of ‘pretending to be Santa’

Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg
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A LABOUR Shadow Minister has ridiculed a festive message from Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg for the people of Yorkshire which painted a positive economic picture for the region.

Mr Clegg, who is also MP for Sheffield Hallam, put out a statement thanking people across the region for “their part in helping the UK turn the corner on the road to economic recovery” and heralding a series of Government policies he said had helped boost Yorkshire’s economy during 2013.

But in a blunt riposte Michael Dugher, Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and MP for Barnsley East, said: “Nick Clegg thinks he’s Santa Claus –pretending to hand out goodies to people in Yorkshire. But the truth is he gives a little with one hand, and takes away much more with the other hand.

“Clegg cannot deny that people in Yorkshire and the Humber are £1,760 a worse off a year since this Government came to office. And the cuts in our region are often bigger than they are in wealthier areas elsewhere in the country.

“Nick Clegg is guilty of duplicity for breaking his election promises and complicity for backing David Cameron all the way. I don’t know how Clegg dares show his face in Yorkshire”.

Mr Clegg’s message had flagged up that £310m had been awarded to 49 businesses in the region since 2010, which he said would help create £1.6bn worth of private sector investment and thousands of jobs. More money through the Regional Growth Fund is also being made available and he also heralded ‘City Deals’ for Leeds, Sheffield and Hull and Humber which hand power over to local people to make investment decisions.

And his message pointed to the creation of nearly 60,000 apprenticeships in the region this year.

“By handing powers over to local leaders, we are giving you the freedom to be really innovative and design new ways to boost your local economy,” Mr Clegg said.

“I am pleased to see that thousands of jobs have been created in the region this year thanks to our work on the Regional Growth Fund and City Deals in Leeds, Sheffield and Hull.

“I visited the Oreo production line in Sheffield and saw first hand the hard work, dedication, and determination of local people and I want to thank you all for what you have done, you are helping to build a stronger economy and by taking responsibility for local issues you are building a fairer society.”

But Leeds Council’s Labour leader Keith Wakefield said the real economic picture wasn’t as rosy as that depicted by Mr Clegg and his claim that the Leeds City Deal had provided a £1bn fund for transport investment rang hollow after the Government imposed new rules on how the money would be raised. He said local efforts to secure wider investment were paying off but added: “We have a long way to go to get the economy back to pre-2008 levels.”

The Labour leader of Sheffield Council, Julie Dore, said: “I’m pleased that several key indicators on self-employment, business start-ups and private sector employment show that Sheffield is moving in the right direction.

“However, there is still a way to go, particularly for our youth, the long term unemployed and for those on low incomes, but as a council we will play our part to help our business grow, and help generate wealth for both the businesses and citizens in our city. Working with businesses, we have managed to achieve a lot in recent years, despite over £180m of Government cuts, and are turning around our city’s fortunes together.”