My old stomping ground was featured on the news yesterday when it was revealed in a survey that public sector cuts would threaten employment in Middlesbrough more than any other place in England.
Apparently, some 43% of the workforce is employed within the public sector with a particular emphasis towards education and healthcare. This leaning towards public sector employment is said to contrast with a lack of private sector opportunities (Unbelievably, quoted figures of less than 200 private sector jobs created in a decade versus 13,000 public sector I find very hard to swallow).
I think it fair to dismiss such attitudes as sweeping generalisms. After all we are talking about an area that provided resources for such giants as ICI and British Steel to grow into massive global players and as well as one of the biggest seaports in the country still remains one of the most important oil refinery/ exporting areas in the world. It is still, to the eye, an industrial powerhouse (but without the smog I'm pleased to say) but plainly employs far fewer people these days than in decades gone by. It is estimated that a net 100,000 jobs have been lost in the area since 1970. Most of these job-losses would have been unskilled or semi-skilled and happened in enormous tranches with a obvious devastating impact upon the local economy, so plainly to expect people to simply start up a new business if they can't find work elsewhere is unrealistic.
The area has faced crisis before and has met this challenge head on. The people, if given a chance, willingly turn their hand to new enterprise. The construction of massive oil & gas rigs in the last decade and the rise of renewable energy technologies are a few examples.
We are a hardy & resilient bunch, self-deprecating and sometimes overly-cynical, but then we would be when faced with ill-judged and poorly-perceived attitudes from other parts of the country. It is rising above challenging situations like this that give a place and its people their character.