'Grim' report suggests Northumberland will be among hardest hit by crisis, with county facing triple-whammy of problems

Northumberland has been named in a new report as one of the council areas in England which could be hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis.

By Ben O'Connell
Wednesday, 17th June 2020, 11:05 am
Updated Wednesday, 17th June 2020, 11:06 am

The report – The geography of the COVID-19 crisis in England – states that there is ‘no one measure of vulnerability’ that can summarise which areas will be hardest hit and that the ‘pandemic will have health, economic and social costs’.

Therefore, the study, by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and published this week, looks at three dimensions of vulnerability – health, jobs and workers, and family (vulnerable children, etc).

It found that Northumberland is one of nine local authorities which are more vulnerable than average across all three domains, which ‘likely reflects their relatively elderly populations, economic reliance on tourism and hospitality, and concentrated pockets of local socio-economic deprivation’.

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A file image of boats at the Northumberland coast as a report suggests the county could be among the hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis

The deputy leader of the Northumberland Labour group, Coun Scott Dickinson, said: “The IFS report makes grim reading, but, if its contents are taken seriously, it gives the council a good basis for recovery.

“The report says the combination of health, jobs and families is what determines how well a local authority area will recover from Covid-19. It is not just a public-health issue.

“We can all work together to make improvements and that is what we will be asking for in the interests of every resident in this county.”

He added: “When the Prime Minister talks about levelling up, which I take to mean giving everyone the same opportunities in health, education, housing and employment, this report highlights that some areas, such as Northumberland, will need more resources and more targeted help to put it on a level footing with other parts of the country.”

Northumberland County Council’s recovery plans are set to be discussed at a remote meeting of the cabinet next week.

The report to councillors sets out the response so far as well as what needs to happen going forward in relation to the economy, communities and people, the environment, and the local authority itself.

‘The recovery process will be complex and long-term; the Covid crisis has impacted every aspect of society,’ it states. ‘Our plans will evolve over time as circumstances change and new initiatives are developed.

‘The council will play its part in leading recovery in Northumberland. But we can only do this by working closely with our residents, communities, partners, businesses and Government.’

Meanwhile, a staged economic recovery plan has been drawn up and agreed by the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group – made up of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the North East and North of Tyne Combined Authorities, the CBI on behalf of business, the North East Joint Transport Committee and regional universities.

The group says the phased approach ‘retains the region’s ambition to deliver more and better jobs and positions support for its places at its core, while being realistic about the long-term impact that COVID-19 will have on the North East’.

The plan considers the actions needed during the next six months as lockdown restrictions are released, the following period of up to 18 months as the region adapts to living with COVID-19, and then longer-term recovery priorities.

North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll said: “We’ve been hit hard by this crisis. Our key workers have done us proud, and our communities have stepped up. We need to act now to build a future that’s prosperous.

“We need jobs. Good jobs with good wages. That means getting investment in offshore wind, a low-carbon transport system and affordable housing. It means giving our youngsters the training they need.

“It means looking after the key-workers who’ve seen us through this crisis. It means revitalising our high streets, supporting our established businesses, and nurturing new ones.

“We’ve got everyone pulling together on this – businesses, councils, transport, health and education. That’s exactly the team we need to make our region prosper.”

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