Labour will today step up its attack on the coalition’s record on the economy with a new report suggesting Yorkshire families are yet to feel the benefit of the recovery.
Using official figures, the report shows the number of young people in Yorkshire to have claimed jobseeker’s allowance for more than two years has quadrupled over the past 12 months to 3,500.
Wages in real terms have also yet to recover from the downturn, with the average monthly wage in the region £140 lower in real terms than it was in 2010.
The latest unemployment figures released last week showed that the jobless rate in Yorkshire is 8.9 per cent compared with 5.8 per cent in the South-East. And there are 120,000 people in part-time jobs in the region because they cannot find full-time work, a rise of 34,000 in the last three years.
Rother Valley MP Kevin Barron, chairman of the Yorkshire and Humber group of Labour MPs, said: “After three years of a stagnant economy, there are signs of a rather anaemic recovery in some parts of our country.
“However, before Cabinet Ministers continue taking to the airwaves to boast about this, I’d suggest they take a trip to Yorkshire because I’m afraid the story here is rather different.
“I’m deeply concerned about the cost of living crisis we’re suffering – it’s reaching breaking point and the results if nothing is urgently done about it will be devastating for thousands of families.
“Labour wants to see a strong economic recovery and will welcome moves that bring it about, but it has to be a recovery that benefits all of us, not just a few at the top, predominantly in London and the South East.”
The battle over the economy has seen the debate shift from whether growth has returned to whether ordinary families are feeling the benefit through improved living standards.
Last week, Chancellor George Osborne insisted the Government’s austerity programme was working, telling academics and business leaders that claims the nation was seeing the “wrong sort of growth” were misplaced.
Amid suggestions Britain is struggling with a jobless recovery, Mr Osborne said: “The economic collapse was even worse than we thought. Repairing it will take even longer than we hoped.
“But we held our nerve when many told us to abandon our plan. And as a result, thanks to the efforts and sacrifices of the British people, Britain is turning a corner.
“Many risks remain. These are still the early stages of recovery. But we mustn’t go back to square one. We mustn’t lose what the British people have achieved.”
Days later, however, the influential Asda Income Tracker report called on the Government to raise the income tax threshold in the face of five more years of economic pain for households.
The threshold is due to rise to £10,000 next April, but its report suggested the level workers have to pay tax should go up to £12,875 – the annual salary of someone earning the minimum wage.
It warned that by 2018, the average UK household will be £1,300 a year worse off in real terms than in 2009 and said regional differences in recovery and growth will be the biggest issue,
Leeds North East MP Fabian Hamilton said: “Any MP in Yorkshire can’t have failed to notice that people are taking home less money and unemployment has been going up and staying up.
“Frankly I’m quite appalled. We are hearing George Osborne crowing about how we have turned the corner but the reality is many more people are suffering as a result.
“The economy has shrunk since the coalition has come into power and people are suffering far more in the North of England than in the South.” He said the current economic situation has meant many more people coming to his constituency surgeries in “desperation trying to make ends meet”.