Growth is key to jobs divide

ALTHOUGH Britain’s economy is relatively stable compared to the escalating crisis in Italy, Greece and other eurozone countries that borrowed to excess, there is one recurring theme – an absence of growth.

It is the key to any recovery strategy, and while David Cameron will point to the advent of local enterprise partnerships and wider measures to cut Britain’s deficit, the Government is struggling to attract private sector investment to those areas with the highest unemployment and benefits dependency.

Take Hull, a port city that symbolises Britain’s manufacturing decline and the country’s subsequent over-dependence on the public sector as an employer. Nearly one in 12 people of working age is claiming benefits, with Labour’s Diana Johnson revealing that 49 people are chasing every vacancy in her Hull North constituency. Contrast this with the region’s rural heartlands where there are fewer than one in 50 people on the dole queue, despite the specific economic challenges facing countryside communities.

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While many people could be far more pro-active in seeking work, as economics expert Ed Holmes argues on the facing page, this is challenging – even for the more dynamic – if there simply are not sufficient vacancies. The key, therefore, is creating more private sector jobs.

That said, this is not going to happen overnight when the nationalised Lloyds Banking Group is blaming minimal growth for a dip in its third-quarter results, and an economic outlook that can only be described, at best, as sluggish. Many will argue that the squeezed lending practices of the banks is holding back Britain’s recovery. Yet Lloyds contends that the issue is one of demand rather than supply – small companies, the engine room of the wider economy, are simply not requesting loans for new business propositions, hence the disappointing bank lending figures.

However, while it is increasingly inevitable that Italy is set to default on its debts in a move that will have ramifications for the whole eurozone, Yorkshire’s jobs divide – a mirror image of contrasting levels of North-South prosperity – is another powerful reminder that the most important word in contemporary politics and economics is “growth”. It needs to govern every decision.