'˜Focus industrial strategy on left-behind areas' says JRF

THERESA MAY's plan to transform the British economy should be focused on struggling areas that include parts of Yorkshire, according to a respected thinktank.

Theresa May has promised to create an economy that works for everyone

The York-based Joseph Rowntree Foundation pointed to figures showing Hull, Leeds and Sheffield as among cities where the economic output of workers is below national averages.

Productivity for workers in Leeds is two-thirds of that in Londown while in Hull the average productivity of workers is just 58 per cent of those in the capital.

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Analysis produced by JRF shows 44 per cent of the workforce in the Humber area is looking for work, wants more hours, is earning less than the living wage or is in an insecure job.

It said that while rural areas tended to have lower numbers of people seeking jobs or extra hours they had some of the highest figures for workers earning low wages or in insecure roles.

In York, North Yorkshire and East Riding, just 13 per cent of the workforce is looking for work or more hours but one-in-five is earning less than the living wage or in a temporary job.

The Government has set out draft plans for its new industrial strategy designed to tackle the UK’s long term productivity gap compared to other major economies.

In its response, published today, the JRF has called on ministers to focus the industrial strategy on parts of the economy lagging behind.

One of its key recommendation is to better balance the Government’s spending to support the economy which is close to £4,000 per person in Scotland but just over £2,000 in Yorkshire.

Dave Innes, economist at JRF, said: “The industrial strategy is an opportunity to transform the prospects of Britain’s poorest people and places by making sure that the economy really does work for everyone.

“It is a welcome step to help deliver on the Government’s ambition.

“To make that a reality, we need to put people and places that have missed on the country’s economic success at the heart of the industrial strategy.

“Almost five million adults lack basic skills, many places have not shared in the country’s record employment, while others see high numbers of workers trapped in low-paid, insecure work.

“These factors act as a drag on productivity and living standards.

“To boost national productivity, towns and cities must be more central to the industrial strategy, rather than added on at the end.”

The JRF document submitted to the Government’s consultation on its industrial strategy welcomes the focus on improving the skills of young people.

But it warns that with the vast majority of the workforce having left education that efforts also need to go into addressing the basic skills failings of many adults.

The JRF warns ministers Britain is a long way from having the “economy that works for everyone” promised by the Prime Minister.

It highlights the growing issue of households which are in work but still stuck in poverty, a number which has risen from 2.3m in 1997 to 3.7m in the latest figures.

“Work should be a route out of poverty, but for a growing number of people it isn’t.

“The industrial strategy is an opportunity to drive up the number of good jobs that will provide rising living standards.”

The Government is urged to devise a “strategy for struggling places”.

The industrial strategy consultation closes today.