A COUNCIL leader says she is "not proud" of a report showing how badly Redcar and Cleveland is lagging behind other areas when it comes to quality of life indicators.

The report, which is produced each year for elected members, highlighted how dismally the borough was faring on measures such as child poverty, secondary school performance, new business start ups and youth unemployment.

Labour’s Chris Massey, who is chairman of the council’s resources scrutiny committee, said that the borough was going backwards in the majority of the indicators in the profile report.

Cllr Lanigan said: “It makes for unpleasant reading in key areas and there are some very difficult challenges with covid providing another knock.”

She added: “I’m not adverse to bringing these reports to cabinet, they need to be full and frank so we can make improvements and look to see what we can change.

“This is not something that we are proud of, but it illustrates that most things are things this council can only influence in part and national events have clearly taken their toll on people. Having said that our job as a council is to do whatever we can to turn things around and that is what we intend to do.”

Report author managing director John Sampson said its purpose was to consider the scale of the challenge being faced by the borough and any additional actions that needed to be taken, within available resources, to make improvements.

The report summarised that some aspects of quality of life had worsened in the last year, with many reasons for this, although some were described as being beyond the council’s control.

It said child poverty was a “generally worsening” situation and a “system-led” approach was being developed to improve life chances for children living south of the River Tees.

A big increase in 2019/20 meant 26.1 per cent of dependent children aged under 20 were deemed to be living in relative poverty, “significantly higher” than the England percentage level.

After a slight improvement in the rate for ten to 11 year olds in 2018-19, there was a significant increase in 2019/20 with 23.7 per cent of children classified as obese, a 1.8 per cent rise, although this was in line with national and regional averages.

In terms of secondary education the report said the borough had not scored well in Ofsted gradings for a few years and the council was working in partnership with academy schools to address leadership failings, along with attendance and pupil exclusions.

Only 30 per cent of secondary schools in 2019 were rated as at least ‘good’, marking a continuing decline since a high of 75 per cent in 2016.

This ranked the borough last among all 12 North-East council areas and way below the England average which is approximately 77per cent.

The report said permanent school pupil exclusions in Redcar and Cleveland were down by 49% and standards were improving in classrooms, although there was no exam data this year to affirm this.

Latest data for new business start-ups, which pre-dates the start of the coronavirus pandemic, show the new business registration rate per 10,000 population was 34.7 in 2019.

This ranked the council 12th – last – among North-East council areas and the lowest of any area in England, with the national rate in the late 70s.

The report said the council understood this “key issue” and had a dedicated business engagement team, while covid-related business grants were also being used, where possible, to support new business start-ups.

It said the £25m Redcar Town Deal bid, along with a £5.8m Future High Streets grant for Loftus would help encourage and nurture start-ups.

Previously agreed projects such as an extension of the Skippers Lane Industrial Estate and a revamp of Eston shopping precinct would also deliver new floorspace for new businesses to take advantage of.

The report referred to the Teesworks industrial site and said that, while not likely to deliver significant new business start-ups, planned significant inward investment and job creation would encourage significant growth in the local supply chain.

It also said the current level of planning applications being lodged with the council was significantly higher than in recent years and across all business sectors, which would likely result in new business start ups going forward.

On youth unemployment Redcar and Cleveland was described as being “no exception” in a difficult national picture which sees youth unemployment having risen faster than any other age group over the last year.

Last year the percentage of young people claiming unemployment-related benefits (Universal Credit and Jobseekers’ Allowance) was 12.5 per cent, a leap from 7.7 per cent in 2019.

The gap with the North-East average (10.1 per cent had increased, although the gap with the English average (9 per cent) was the smallest since 2013.

The report said a new ‘Skills Academy’ being developed with Redcar and Cleveland College would supply a steady stream of young people to fill jobs being created in the area.

Meanwhile, other dedicated projects such as the council’s Youth Employment Initiative which targets youngsters not in education, employment and training had “made fantastic strides over recent years”.

Average weekly pay for full-time employees in the borough was £502.90 last year, a figure that had been increasing since the 2015 closure of the SSI steel plant in Redcar.

But despite a small increase last year Redcar and Cleveland still ranked ninth lowest when ranked against all 12 North-East local authorities, was below the North-East average and substantially lower than the national average.

Cllr Massey, summing up his scrutiny committee’s thoughts, said: “We recognise that a lot of things we are talking about are national problems.

“But the report is particularly alarming with the borough being towards the lower end of many key indicators which have a significant impact on residents’ lives.

“Redcar and Cleveland seems to be going backwards in relation to the majority of measures.

“The council is in the red zone when it comes to weekly pay, business start ups, obese children, secondary schools, children’s achievements, youth unemployment and carbon emissions and that is within the North-East.

“Nationally the council is in the bottom 25 per cent of the whole UK for eight of these measures and the bottom 50 per cent for seven of the measures and only in the top half for one, which is primary schools which traditionally have been good in this area.”

He added: “Redcar and Cleveland have had some of these problems for a long time and they did not come along because of covid and we really need Government funding to address some of these things because the council can only do so much.”