Miliband warns of threat to job hopes in North

LABOUR leader Ed Miliband today issues a stark warning that the Government has failed to grasp the scale of the economic challenge facing the North of England, as youth unemployment soars and hopes of a revival based upon green energy jobs “wither away” in the face of Treasury and backbench Tory opposition.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Post, Mr Miliband has called for “more targeted help” for the country’s unemployment hot-spots such as his own Doncaster North constituency and attacked the “retrograde step” made by coalition Ministers in 2010 when they decided to abolish regional development agencies including Yorkshire Forward.

Mr Miliband also warned the regions now “sorely lack the presence” of the RDAs to divert investment away from its “default position” of targeting the South.

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In a wide-ranging interview, the opposition leader admitted he is now enjoying his role following a string of successes over the Government since the ill-received Budget at the end of March.

But he also accepted the need to “lead from the front” as his party strives to learn the lessons of its shock by-election defeat to George Galloway and Respect in Bradford West earlier this year.

Last week, the Yorkshire Post marked the first anniversary of its Give us a Fair Deal campaign, aiming to secure greater support from the Government to boost private sector growth and begin to close the North/South divide.

Mr Miliband was scathing of coalition policies which he believes have had a severely damaging effect upon the North in particular as the country slips back into double-dip recession.

“Right across the country their economic plan isn’t working,” he says. “We see it in our region, by what is happening to long-term youth unemployment, which is going up not down – in some cases doubling or even trebling.

“We see it in the abolition of the regional development agencies, which was a bad, retrograde step, and I don’t think they’ve made up for it with the LEPs (local enterprise partnerships).

“Sometimes where the default position is for investment to go to the South of England, you do need the RDAs or something similar playing that strategic role, properly resourced and properly equipped.

“I think they (the Government) haven’t properly grasped the scale of the challenge and the scale of the impact of their cuts, particularly on parts of our region.”

As the Energy and Climate Change Secretary in the final years of the Labour Government, Mr Miliband was responsible for bringing forward proposals for “clean coal” power stations using carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology and vast offshore wind farms around the coast of Britain.

Both appear to hold huge job opportunities for Yorkshire, with the Humber area in particular pinning its hopes on a long-term industrial revival based around green energy.

But in a stinging riposte to Government policies which have seen CCS funding beset by delays and wind power suffer swingeing attacks from Conservative backbenchers and Treasury insiders alike, Mr Miliband warns that optimism has “withered away” owing to Treasury opposition.

“I think clean coal technology could be fantastic for our region, as a fantastic job-creator for the future,” he says.

“But the Government’s... been very uncertain about its green policies. George Osborne says green policies are the enemy of economic growth, and so I think the excitement that there was about that green jobs future has rather withered away.”