Putting region in the debate

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This is the time of the year when we think about how we fared last year and look forward to the new one.

There are welcome signs of growth but much has bypassed the north.

We have higher unemployment, more long term joblessness, the lowest pay in the country and a third of our children live in poverty.

Cuts to council budgets has slashed spending to much lower levels than well-heeled parts of the south.

Welfare reforms have also taken money out of the local economy.

The ‘bedroom tax’ is particularly obnoxious because there are too few smaller homes to move into and the loss of housing benefit, for those in and out of work, is worsening already low household budgets.

I also know that many have been forced to use payday companies that charge an arm and a leg for loans.

The need for a major programme of house building is also becoming more urgent. The support of faith groups for credit unions is very welcome.

It used to be that we could expect that our children would be better off in each new generation but the link between growth and living standards has been broken.

I was amazed to hear the prime minister accuse the opposition of ignoring the economy by talking about the need to increase living standards, as if they are different.

My new year resolution is to help put living standards and overcoming the north-south divide at the centre of debate.