‘Sunderland has the strength to beat the recession’

Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson
Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson
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WEARSIDE traders have pledged to pull together to beat the economic gloom.

Official figures released by the Office of National Statistics yesterday revealed that Britain’s recovery slammed into reverse at the end of last year after the economy contracted by a worse-than-expected 0.3 per cent.

The fall in gross domestic product (GDP) between October and December follows 0.9 per cent growth in the third quarter.

It will raise fears that the UK is on course for an unprecedented triple-dip recession.

But the Wearside Traders’ Association say Sunderland will continue to survive the economic decline.

Giles McCourt, spokesman for the association and a solicitor at Morton Solicitors, said: “It has been a poor start to the year.

“On a positive note the traders’ association has a number of events planned for this year and has the benefits of its members to help boost city centre trade.

“A triple-dip recession is a real threat. There is a lot of negativity about but if we can stick together we can defy reports and hopefully boost trade.”

Reports say the winter weather is also hitting retailers but city councillors say it should not be taken as a forecast for the coming year.

“Things like the weather need to be taken with a pinch of salt and I do not think we should read too much into it,” said Robert Oliver, Conservative leader in Sunderland.

“We should look at where the economy is going over a long period and look at things like the deficit and the private sector.

“Looking more at the private sector in the city, we should see it positively.

“The number of jobs created by Nissan and benefits to other automotive business are making Sunderland more resilient. It is bringing other business into the city.

“We have a key strength we can build on that will set us apart from other economies.”

A Centre for Cities report released on Monday showed that Sunderland survived the recession better than most cities and is regarded as having seen a “large relative improvement” over the past three years.

City council leader Paul Watson said: “Going into a triple-dip recession is no surprise.

“In regards to the weather, it will affect Sunderland and traders will find it more difficult.

“We highly prize our shopping centres However, we are not reliant on them as we have trade outside the city centre.

“We need to help retail as much as we can but it will not affect Sunderland as much as other places.”

THE winter blasts may be bringing a chill to the economy – but one trader says business is booming.

Clays Garden Centre, Washington, has seen a boost to its sales over the past week.

Managing director Harry Clay said: “Our sales have increased and we have quite a stock of sledges.

“People still have their sledges from 2010 when everyone bought them because of the heavy snowfall and they bought lots of them.

“People are still buying, though, and sales have increased.”

THE Office for National Statistics (ONS) said economic output as a whole remained flat in 2012.

The fourth-quarter drop is worse than expected, with most economists forecasting a fall of 0.1 per cent. It deals a blow to recovery hopes after the UK bounced back from the longest double-dip recession since the 1950s in the third quarter.

But the rebound was largely driven by one-off factors, such as the Olympics, and as the economy clawed back activity lost during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee holiday, which has skewed quarter-on-quarter changes in activity, the ONS said.

The fourth-quarter figures are preliminary estimates and subject to revision. The latest ONS estimate increases the pressure on Chancellor George Osborne at a time when all three major ratings agencies have the country’s prized AAA status on negative outlook.

A Treasury spokesman said: “The official forecast was that the UK economy would contract in the last quarter of 2012 so this figure is not unexpected. It confirms what we already knew – that Britain, like many European countries, still faces a very difficult economic situation.”