MPs condemn report which brands Teesside "rustbelt Britain" and says it should be left to decline (From The Northern Echo)
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Article prejudiced, insulting and wrong, say MPs.
A REPORT which branded Hartlepool and Middlesbrough “rustbelt Britain” – and suggested they were in terminal decline – has been condemned by MPs.
Iain Wright, MP for Hartlepool, said the report in the Economist Magazine was “intellectually flawed” and prejudiced.
Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald said the report, which said the Government should give up trying to rejuvenate the towns, was deeply disappointing, ill-judged, and an "insult" to local people.
The article, by Oxford-educated Economist writer Daniel Knowles, and an accompanying opinion piece, said a string of towns and small cities in former industrial heartlands were quietly decaying.
The Labour Government, it said, had committed “piles of public money” to propping up towns like Middlesbrough and Hartlepool, and the coalition was trying to help them with Enterprise zones.
“But these kindly efforts are misguided. Governments should not try to rescue failing towns. Instead, they should support the people who live in them,” it said.
It described Middlesbrough and Hartlepool as having high streets “thick with betting shops and payday lenders, if they are not empty”.
And it said the towns were dependent on welfare.
The article suggested that money should be spent instead encouraging people to move to growing suburbs of large cities like Newcastle and London by relaxing planning restraints to allow greenbelt development around thriving cities, and allow the declining industrial towns to decay.
Mr Wright said: “The notion that we are in terminal decline is simply wrong. It is prejudiced, lazy journalism like this that perpetrates the myth that it is grim up north.”
Mr McDonald said the report had completely overlooked the area’s thriving process industries, which produce half the petrochemicals and over one third of the pharmaceuticals made in Britain.
“We are not a former industrial area, but a current one,” he said.
“It should never be forgotten that it was not the people of the North East, whether in work or out of it, that plunged this country into recession.
“It was a small cabal of financiers in the capital and in similar financial centres around the world. If The Economist wishes to hand out advice on creating sustainable growth, it should start on the banks of the Thames, before lecturing Teesside.”
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