The most damning verdict of the year on Theresa May’s government came in Alan Milburn’s resignation letter when standing down as head of the Social Mobility Commission because there was “zero chance” of it succeeding.
The former Labour Health Secretary said: “There has been indecision, dysfunctionality and a lack of leadership.”
The gap between rich and poor, and crucially the generational gap in expectations and real chances, has widened and turned Mrs May’s aspirations for making the country “one that works for everyone” into a bad joke.
Nowhere is that more clear than Northumberland, which ranks 288 out of 324 in terms of giving the next generation a decent chance of escaping poverty.
There is a strong uptake of education for two-year-olds from poor families, and above average primary school attainment for disadvantaged pupils, but much of the good work unravels.
The region suffers from low access to quality secondary schools for disadvantaged children, high drop-out rates, and the highest levels in the country of people in low pay.
The commission reported that “the region has the largest disparity between outcomes for disadvantaged people during the school years and afterwards. This means that early educational successes often go to waste, partly because high quality job opportunities are more limited than in other areas.”
The north east comprises many isolated towns and former industrial areas. These areas struggle most because new industries have been slow to replace mining and manufacturing, while poor transport links make opportunities difficult to reach.
Northumberland County Council should commission a survey highlighting the problem and present it to the government. If it doesn’t act on it, we will have to wait for a Jeremy Corbyn government.
Finally, I wish constituents a Happy Christmas and all the best for 2018.