Tough year ahead warn leaders

TOWN leaders have warned Hartlepool is in for a tough 2013 as funding cuts will continue to be felt.

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright hopes it will be the year the town is given the opportunity to reach its industrial and engineering potential – but fears it will be even tougher than 2012.

And Mayor Stuart Drummond said more cuts are on the way that will hit some of the most vulnerable people in the town.

Mr Wright believes Hartlepool has the potential to be a “fantastic part of a renaissance of engineering” in the UK.

But he says Prime Minister David Cameron is “away with the fairies” if he believes the country is on the right track to recover from the economic downturn.

The town MP says Hartlepool is worse off now than it was this time last year, with unemployment rates higher and he fears for town residents with Government changes such as the incoming bedroom tax.

He said: “2013 is going to be even tougher.

“I’m hoping this can be the year when we see economic recovery and the town can begin to fulfil its potential as a major industrial and engineering powerhouse.

“That’s my optimism, but it’s dampened by the fact that economic recovery is going to be more difficult than ever.”

Mr Wright also remains hopeful that 2013 will be the year of the great escape and will see Pools defy the odds and avoid relegation to League Two.

He said: “It’s been an extremely difficult year to be a supporter.

“But we ended the year on a high with that fantastic result at Bramall Lane and I hope that can give us a bit of a kick-start.

“John Hughes is still a relatively new manager and he’s having to completely turn the tank around.

“But the result at Sheffield United showed that the fighting spirit is still there.”

Mayor Drummond said last year’s Olympics helped lift the spirit of the town when Hartlepool welcomed the torch and got behind Hartlepool’s Olympic hopefuls Jemma Lowe and Savannah Marshall.

Looking ahead for 2013 he said: “I don’t think we have even scratched the surface as far as Government cuts go.

“There is much more to come and the welfare reform changes are going to hit some of the most vulnerable in the town. There is no getting away from it.”

The next year will also mark a big change for Mayor Drummond after the town voted to scrap the independently elected mayor and switch to a committee system.

He will leave the office he has held for the last 10 years in May.

Mayor Drummond said: “It will be a new challenge and chapter in my life so it should be quite an exciting time.

“I will cast my net and see what is out there.”