No matter what the Prime Minister says regional economies remain on shaky ground - Jayne Dowle

When it comes to the North-South divide, Yorkshire and the Humber has finally pushed London off the top spot, but it’s not a prize to be proud of.

A new study finds that employees in our region are the second most likely to be made redundant across all UK areas in 2024. At the top? Workers in London, who are most likely to lose their jobs in 2024.

It’s hardly celebratory news. Obviously, some London postcodes suffer from huge levels of deprivation and lack of job opportunities, but in comparison to regions like Yorkshire and the Humber, when one door closes in the capital, another one pretty much opens, if you’re prepared to push.

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There are literally thousands more jobs available in one of the leading cities of the world than in areas of the country – like ours – which have long suffered from lack of private and public investment, poor transport links, traducing of trade union power, and fewer opportunities for employment, per head of population, all round, certainly outside major cities such as Leeds and York.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (second right) during a visit to a bus depot in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. PIC: Carl Recine/PA WirePrime Minister Rishi Sunak (second right) during a visit to a bus depot in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. PIC: Carl Recine/PA Wire
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (second right) during a visit to a bus depot in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. PIC: Carl Recine/PA Wire

Only last October, Bradford-based doors and windows firm Safestyle went into administration, and 680 people lost their jobs. Many of these worked in Wombwell, a small town just outside Barnsley in South Yorkshire.

The GMB union said Safestyle workers had been treated "absolutely abysmally". They were given no warning of the redundancies to come and lost their jobs with immediate effect, with bills and mortgages to pay and families to face with appalling news.

Those of us with long memories remember the shadow of redundancy that hung over us growing up with parents who worked in heavy industries such as coal-mining and steel-making.

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My own dad, a fitter at Stocksbridge steelworks, went on strike in the early 1980s to fight for jobs when the late Sir Ian MacGregor took over as boss of British Steel and held a sword over the livelihoods of countless families. Within three years, MacGregor’s swingeing programme of cuts had reduced a national workforce of 166,000 to 71,000. He then moved on to become chairman and chief executive of the National Coal Board, and the rest is history.

The aftermath of all those job losses has never left our region, particularly in South and West Yorkshire, where entire communities were devastated.

Which is why this new study, conducted by personal financial experts Wealth of Geeks, both highlights the current vulnerability of Yorkshire and indicates long-term decline that has never been successfully reversed.

The experts examined the number of potential redundancies from HR1 forms, also known as Redundancy Notification forms, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) between January and October 2023.

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The total number of possible redundancies was then considered per 100,000 people to determine the Great British regions with heightened vulnerability.

The study found employees in Yorkshire to be the second most at risk. In the region, there were 25,227 potential redundancies from January to October 2023, totalling 460 per 100,000 people.

London experienced 52,173 potential redundancies between January and October 2023, equating to 593 per 100,000 people.

This damning forecast on redundancies suggests that whatever the government in Westminster says about the economy - and on this, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak can be damagingly disingenuous - regional economies remain on shaky ground.

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The big question is, if the Conservative government’s long years of neglect and disinterest in truly achieving national parity has been such a contributory factor, what would Labour do in power not just to create jobs, but to secure jobs?

It really should be an open goal. However, whilst the Opposition’s manifesto on employment, A New Deal for Working People, launched at the Labour Party conference last September, is impressive, it does not specifically mention any measures pertaining to redundancies at all.

Obviously, no government can control the operation of private and public companies, but putting the onus on unions to fight with employers is barely half the battle.

In a world where a doors and windows factory can shut up for the weekend on a Friday and throw almost 700 people out of work on a Monday, surely we need legislation to prevent employers from always having the upper hand.

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