‘Quick action needed’

HARTLEPOOL MP Iain Wright has accused the Government of “abandoning the town’s jobless” as unemployment figures rise yet again.

Mr Wright’s claim comes as figures for February show there was an extra 195 people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) in Hartlepool and east Durham.

The number of Hartlepool claimants went up from 4,633 in January to 4,678 in February, which accounts for eight per cent of the working population.

Mr Wright, who earlier this month challenged Leader of the House of Commons, Tory MP, Sir George Young, to come and see the town’s jobless situation for himself, said: “The Government is abandoning the town’s jobless.

“I mentioned last month how I thought we were approaching a crisis situation in the town’s unemployment problem.

“This month the figures are actually worse and the Government really needs to intervene quickly and decisively and not abandon the people left without jobs.”

Mr Wright said he will again call for a debate on the unemployment situation in Hartlepool and the North-East in Parliament today and added: “We are seeing unemployment in Hartlepool get very close to 5,000.

“Since this time last year, 419 more people are out of work – that’s nearly a 10 per cent increase in 12 months.

“That shows the Government’s policies aren’t working and they really need to get their act together and deal with the situation.”

The figure leaves Hartlepool fourth in the UK for the percentage of JSA recipients, behind Middlesbrough, Wolverhampton and Kingston upon Hull, and second in the region, behind Middlesbrough.

In Hartlepool, in the 18-24 age category, there were 1,440 claimants, down from 1,460 the previous month.

There was also 2,595 people in the 25-49 group, an increase from 2,530 in January, and the number in the 50-64 range stayed the same, at 615.

Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond said he has previously warned that unemployment was “going to get worse before it gets better”.

He added: “Sadly I can’t see the peak of the mountain yet – the figures are starting to bear that out.

“All we can do as a council is continue to try to support local businesses to produce jobs first of all, which I think is most important in this climate, but if there are any businesses looking to expand or move into Hartlepool, we are there with all the support we can give.”

Mayor Drummond added that a decision on whether to bring Spanish firm Gamesa’s wind turbine plant to Hartlepool or Leith in Scotland, which is expected shortly and could create 1,800 jobs, would “show Hartlepool is open for business and other businesses will follow”.

In the Easington constituency there were 3,753 recipients, up from 3,714 last month and representing 6.2 per cent of the working population.

In Stockton North, which includes Billingham, Wolviston and parts of Wynyard, the figure has gone up to 4,270 from 4,159, or 7.1 per cent of working people.

But in Sedgefield, the number of unemployment benefit claimants has gone down from 3,037 to 3,003, representing 5.5 per cent of working people.

Jobseeker Graham Lyth, 50, from the Chester Road area of town, is one of the faces of the Hartlepool Mail’s Work in Progress campaign, which aims to highlight the plight of the unemployed and help people into work.

Graham, who has sent off more than 250 applications since leaving his job with a print firm four years ago, said: “The numbers are going up and up, I can’t see them going down.”

The number of JSA claimants nationally has risen by 7,200 to 1.61m.