Karen Allen

I fought South Shields at the May 2010 General Election for the Conservatives, gaining a 6.4% swing which was a 4% vote increase. The Conservatives polled 7,886 up from 5,207 in 2005. I was born in the North East and grew up in South Shields. I currently live in London and am employed as a Director at Lloyd's Broker Howden International.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

New Business "attracted" to the North East

As recession looks set to officially hit next quarter and jobs have already been lost at the Tanfield Group in Washington, Tyne & Wear new jobs are needed more than ever in the North East. So I was encouraged when I read Tech Mahindra, an Indian Technology company, are to launch a new operation in Jarrow which will create 500 jobs.

Development Agency, One North East have very generously given Tech Mahindra a grant of £2m towards this purpose. This started to ring a faint bell, as I recalled Garlands were also the lucky recipients of such a grant (to the tune of £600,000 in 2007) as they pledged to create 1,000 jobs out of their plush, new call centre on the Tyne. Over a year later, however, I understand there are fewer than 100 people working at Garlands in South Shields.

Tech Mahindra are expected to create between 50-75 initial jobs, which is to grown into 500 jobs. I sincerely do hope this happens, because the North East needs these jobs, but I couldn’t help thinking of the old proverb: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” On that very note, I was heartened to hear last week the Muirneag is to undergo refurbishment at A&P Tyne, Hebburn.

As I’ve written before, Nick Brown, MP for Tyne East and Wallsend is reported to be analysing which infrastructure projects in the North East can be brought forward. Well, better late than never I suppose, but why this wasn’t the focus of Labour MPs lobbying for the last ten years I don’t understand. With the largest concentration of Labour MPs anywhere in the country it’s a disgrace to learn the findings of a report from the Civil Engineers Institute – which rings clear the continued neglect – the report estimated £300m of investment would generate up to £1.5bn in economic growth in the region. Yet failed lobbying allowed the upgrade of the A1 to be downgraded to “regional” rather than “national” importance.

We need more investment desperately in South Shields and in the North East, but let’s make sure we are not just dishing out money – but that we are attracting sustainable job opportunities for long term growth in the region.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Infrastructure Investment Urgently Needed in North East

According to a recent report issued by the Institute of Civil Engineers £300m of rail investment on the Eastern Line could generate up to £1.5bn of growth in the North East. So you might think Labour MPs in the region would be lobbying to get this funding and to his credit apparently Nick Brown, MP for Newcastle East and Wallsend, is drawing up a “hit list of regional spending projects… in an attempt to tackle the looming recession… and is searching for infrastructure projects that can be brought forward.”

The North East has the highest unemployment in the country – standing at 7.7% and with the loss of jobs recently at the Tanfield Group in Washington and the recession looming, this figure only looks set to worsen.

Yet, I read a few days after reading about the pledge to advance investment in the North East’s infrastructure, I also read that the proposals for the A1 have been downgraded “from strategic national importance to regional importance”.

It no longer surprises me that the left and right hand of the Labour Party don’t know what the other is doing but ignoring the North East has gone on for too long. The A1 has been crying out for investment for years. We are the only part of the country not connected by a Motorway; our main arterial route is mostly single carriageway, increasing travel costs and time, as well as being very dangerous.

The North East has been badly let down by its Labour MPs. As well as having the highest unemployment in the country the area also has the highest density of Labour MPs. They have had 11 years to lobby on this issue. Without more effective representation, the area won’t get the infrastructure investment required to prosper. Increased enterprise urgently needs to be attracted to the North East.