Divide claims rejected

A REGENERATION chief has hit back at claims that the North-South divide has widened.

A report published yesterday said the divide was likely to continue against a backdrop of continued very modest UK average growth of only around one per cent in both 2011 and 2012.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) latest UK Economic Outlook report prompted a reaction from Stephen Catchpole, managing director of Tees Valley Unlimited.

He said: “This report paints an over-gloomy picture and does not reflect the significant strides that are being made to boost the local economy, create employment and narrow the North-South divide.

“Tees Valley has secured £65.6m in Regional Growth Fund bids that will attract more than £400m of private sector investment, generate growth and export opportunities and create and safeguard more than 5,000 jobs across the area.

“There are also the stimulating financial incentives being offered by enterprise zones that will help attract meaningful investment and growth.”

The PwC report said unemployment in the UK stood at eight per cent in the second quarter of 2011, up by 2.8 per cent from the end of 2007.

UK house prices had fallen by 9.4 per cent on average since their peak in the third quarter of 2007.

The public sector, which currently accounts for around 20 per cent of total UK employment, has started this year to cut back severely on jobs.

Wage growth has been subdued for some years relative to price inflation, while taxes have risen.

All of these things mean that households are facing increased uncertainty and stress about how they will meet their future financial obligations, said the report.

But Mr Catchpole said positive news was emerging from the local economy including SSI which had awarded a £30m contract for a coal injection plant at its Redcar works to Siemens VAI at Thornaby.