Bridget Phillipson: ‘Nissan shows we have the skills’

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Last week’s announcement by Nissan that its new Invitation model will be built on Wearside was just the news we needed – an investment of £125million at the plant, 400 jobs and a further 1600 in the supply chain.

Nissan is a great success story, not just for Sunderland or the North East, but it shows how Britain can lead the world in cutting-edge manufacturing.

It is hard to believe that it was just over three years ago that Nissan announced major job losses, but this new investment will see record numbers of staff employed at the plant.

This vote of confidence is down to the hard work, skill and innovation of staff who have secured this vital investment for the north east economy.

They rightly deserve our respect and praise. It does, however, remain a difficult and uncertain time for the rest of the region’s economy.

Business Secretary Vince Cable’s leaked letter to the Prime Minister highlighted the problems at the heart of the Government’s approach.

Cable believes the Government lacks a compelling vision for where the country is going – a rather peculiar view from any senior cabinet minister, let alone from the man who heads up the department responsible for business.

At a time when the Government expects jobs lost in the public sector to be replaced by those in the private sector, it is more important than ever to have an active industrial policy.

The Nissan announcement coincided with the winding up of One North East, the Regional Development Agency that fought to secure jobs and investment for our area.

We are weaker without the RDA. It will be far harder to attract new businesses to the region.

Nissan shows we have the skills and the work ethic here – what we don’t have is the right climate and opportunities if we want to see further jobs and growth.

We often see negative headlines about pregnant teenagers but there has been surprisingly little coverage of the fact that teenage conception rates are now at their lowest since 1969.

The previous Labour government invested heavily and took action to reduce teenage pregnancies.

This kind of preventative work often went unreported, but was no doubt a major factor behind the reduction.

Many teenagers make loving and caring parents and have to fight negative stereotypes, but they’d be the first to accept that it’s tough being a young parent and on a low income.

The short-sighted cuts made by the government to this important area of public health may yet have long term consequences.