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Welcome to Britain’s crime capital A failing police force and poverty have created a perfect storm in Cleveland

Just the seven bosses in nine years (OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)


November 16, 2021   7 mins

Val Gibson and Karen O’Hara, who run the community hub in North Ormesby, on the outskirts of Middlesbrough, remember the attack with a coolness befitting residents of the most lawless region in the United Kingdom. It takes several minutes before O’Hara recalls: “Oh. That man who came into the office? Yeah, he had a machete. He was going to slice us all up.” Gibson lets out an indomitable chuckle. “We forgot about that,” adds her colleague. “Water off a duck’s back.”

Given nobody was hurt, and given the relative frequency with which such events take place, perhaps they can be forgiven for failing to remember such a striking event: data published by the Office for National Statistics this month revealed that the Cleveland police area had the highest total recorded crime rate in England and Wales. The district — which covers Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Stockton and Redcar — had 114.9 offences per 1,000 people (the lowest, North Yorkshire, had 50.5). None of this is news to those on the front line in North Ormesby, the most deprived ward in Middlesbrough (itself the fifth most deprived local authority area in England).

The suburb — already struggling with high unemployment and widespread drug addiction — has become notorious as a kind of national “human dumping ground” for refugees and newly released criminals. A 2017 analysis by the BBC found the ward to have the cheapest property in the country, with an average price of ÂŁ36,000. “I’ve met a few people who’ve come out of jail in London and they’ve sent them straight up here for the cheap housing,” says Gibson, who adds that many properties are in such a state of disrepair that the residents try to spend as much time outside of their homes as possible.

The area used to have a post office, which shut down after it became a magnet for thieves and the owner was repeatedly attacked. One local says: “You never see an old lady walking around here on her own. They’re always in twos or with family because of the bag-snatching.”

“I’ve been burgled and that,” Gibson says with a shrug. “I’ve had two cars stolen. Insurance – that’s the only protection you really have.” Gibson, 64, and O’Hara, 63, are among those trying to turn things around. They are employed as part of the Big Local initiative, which has been given £1 million of lottery funding to spend over ten years. The cash has been used to install 38 CCTV cameras (the one in the market place has a speaker so officers can warn stallholders when local pickpockets are spotted) and to buy six houses “to hopefully stop rubbish landlords coming in”.

Though both women repeatedly state how much they love their neighbourhood and its irrepressible community spirit, Gibson admits: “It will take more than us to solve the problem.” Last month, in Redcar, the police station itself was vandalised with graffiti that said: “F*** off. C***s. Shoot police dead.” Only two weeks ago, a police van responding to a 999 call in Hemlington had its brakes “intentionally cut”.
Cleveland’s Assistant Chief Constable described the latter as a “dangerous and callous act” — but it was also symbolic. The police force could provide enough scandal for a new series of Line of Duty; the wheels have all but come off.

In 2019, Cleveland became the first force in England and Wales to be rated ‘inadequate’ across all areas. Officers described their force as “directionless, rudderless and clueless”, while inspectors found it was failing to identify staff most at risk of corruption and “putting the public at risk”. When I put this to the police force, a spokesman told me: “We are particularly focussed on addressing serious violence and will continue to bid for additional funding in this area. Cleveland Police is working hard to address these challenges by protecting the vulnerable and preventing and detecting crime. HMICFRS have noted significant improvements since 2019.”

Yet despite these “improvements”, the force is now seeking its seventh boss in nine years. Sean Price was sacked for gross misconduct in 2012, the first chief constable in the UK to be dismissed in 35 years, after he lied about his role in the recruitment of the former police authority chairman’s daughter. It was announced in August that Mike Veale, who resigned in 2019 after less than a year in the role, is to face gross misconduct proceedings.

Even Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner is leaving residents wanting. In September, Steve Turner — the Conservative elected only in May “to be the voice of the people and hold the police to account” — was accused in Parliament by a Labour MP of having been sacked by a former employer for “systematic theft”. Mr Turner demanded the “unsubstantiated” claim be retracted, 24 hours before admitting he had accepted a police caution in the late 1990s “in relation to an event at a supermarket store where I was employed” (the event, he later revealed, was handling stolen goods).

As if that were not enough, after being told Mr Turner was available for an interview for this article, I was told he was suddenly unavailable after he was accused of a historical sexual assault. He appeared on the local ITV news last week to maintain that he was “completely innocent” and the victim of “a co-ordinated witch hunt”.

Whatever the truth, the blame for Cleveland’s extraordinary crime levels cannot solely be placed at any individual’s door. If anything, the violence and theft that grips this part of the North East is the result of a perfect storm — one that has been made worse by the ineptitude of the local police force.

It is hardly surprising, for example, that Cleveland has two of the three areas with the highest rate of drug deaths in England — Middlesbrough and Hartlepool. Then there are its soaring levels of deprivation. Between 2015-15 and 2019-20, the North East saw the most dramatic rise in child poverty, up more than a third to 37%, while Middlesbrough has the highest proportion of people experiencing destitution in the country.

At the Genesis Project in the town’s Grove Hill housing estate, you can see the weary faces behind the figures. A sign on the wall of St Oswald’s church hall reads: “Some days you just have to create your own sunshine.” The volunteers are doing their best, catering to about 500 people a week arriving from across Teesside and queuing in all weathers for the basics of life: clothes, bedding, toiletries, fruit and vegetables.

Inside the church itself, a homeless man has just been given a makeshift bed. One distraught mother recently presented herself in tears because she could not afford to buy formula to feed her baby. And, since the removal of the ÂŁ20-a-week uplift in Universal Credit in October, it is getting busier each week. “I feel a little bit aggrieved that we’re having to find the money to do it,” says project head Reverend Kath Dean, “because this is what I would consider to be a very poor church. We don’t have enough money to pay our gas bill, so in the winter we can’t afford to worship in the church. Why aren’t the authorities coming and helping?” She says she sees a connection between the poverty and the disturbing crime rate, and adds: “There are certain areas that I certainly wouldn’t walk through in the dark. I just know that there are certain areas in town that the police avoid as well.”

Cleveland is also the region with the highest rate for sexual offences in England and Wales, 3.7 per 1,000 people (its own former head of communications was sentenced for making indecent images of children in August). “It’s not necessarily a negative thing,” says Nicky Harkin, chief executive of Arch Teesside, a specialist sexual violence service, from her base in a converted house in the Middlesbrough suburbs. “We want people to come forward, we want people to report. Potentially that is a good thing that people feel that they can and that there are greater mechanisms for them to do that.”

But Harkin is also seeing “greater mental health needs, greater complexity in the cases that we support” and an average waiting time for cases to pass through the criminal justice system that has tripled — to three years — in less than a decade.
She wants to see long-term investment in vital services. “We need to be able to get on and do the job that we know is needed without having to, in the voluntary sector, scramble around year on year to try to sustain the provision that we’ve got.”
Simon Winlow, professor of criminology at Northumbria University, is generally wary of police crime data, which he believes can be “strewn with problems”.

But, he says: “That’s not to say such stats can’t offer some basic indications of what’s going on in the real world. Cleveland has some of the poorest postcodes in the country. Residents will tell you that public order crimes, violence, low-level quality-of-life crimes, drug dealing and so on are a standard feature of everyday life. Some crimes become so normalised that they’re scarcely worth remarking on. “There’s also a general absence of reasonably remunerative and secure jobs. Middlesbrough town centre is a wonderfully evocative place. The world has moved on and much of Middlesbrough has fallen out of history.”

The town’s Dorman Museum tries to put a positive spin on things. Yes, Middlesbrough was once such a centre of manufacturing that it provided the steel for the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the area’s heavy industries have now largely disappeared. “However, many new industries have developed, such as call centres,” says one display, while visitors are told the town has a bustling shopping centre.

Mark Horkan, founder of the White Feather Project, which delivers hundreds of emergency food and care packages a month, does not quite see it that way. “Everybody worked in the factories or the steelworks or on the railways. Things got privatised. There’s nothing for them to go into. You go down the town centre and it’s atrocious, the amount of shops that’s closed down because there’s no money.”

On the morning of our interview, Horkan discovered one of his units had been broken into and thieves had made off with treats for the children’s Christmas hampers. He is baffled why anyone would steal from a charity that gives its wares away. But he says he can see why penury inexorably leads to crime. “They’re going out there trying to fend for themselves to feed their families. That’s wrong, we know it’s wrong. But it’s happening.”

Cleveland’s residents have become inured to living with a failing police force, rising levels of deprivation and housing as ramshackle as the social safety net. And they are under no illusions: it is going to take hefty investment and long-term commitment to even begin to fix the problem. If levelling up is a soundbite in search of a policy, Britain’s wild west is a land of despair in pursuit of something more than nebulous promises.


Etan Smallman is a freelance journalist.

EtanSmallman

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Terry Needham
Terry Needham
2 years ago

“However, many new industries have developed, such as call centres,” 
The old jokes are the best.

Fred Bloggs
Fred Bloggs
2 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

Well, if you’ve actually got a paid job in a call centre in Middlesbrough, at least you can afford a laugh.

Douglas H
Douglas H
2 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

Not all jobs in call centres are bad jobs, just like not all jobs in factories are good jobs. Some are actually jobs you can be proud of, working for a decent employer and helping people every day with their problems.

I’m genuinely thankful when an empathetic person in a call centre solves my problem, and I always thank them. We should not automatically look down in call centre jobs.

A lot depends on the employer, some customer-care outsourcers are excellent, others (e.g. the dreaded Capita last time I looked) are not.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Douglas H

I don’t look down on those working in call centres, however they’re not jobs with any chance of progressing much further than the minimum wage. The factories were skilled employment with a chance to work your way up the ladder, call centres are poorly paid and dead end, working in them must be soul destroying

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

I thought all call centers serving the UK were in Delhi.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

One of the things the Left always does is increase crime, and they are universally successful at it.

Causing a break down in law and order means the honest, the Middle class and working Class, will give up more and more of their rights to authority in the vain hope they will be better protected. This trading freedom for security is exactly the mechanism used by the Government, MSM, and Social Media to destroy the rights of all the West via the ‘Covid Restrictions’ (and soon their economies too). This is giving total power to the Elites.

“Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one. Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both. He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither. Thomas Jefferson also said: He who gives his freedom for safety gets none of them.”

Crime increasing makes the public want more and more cameras, facial recognition, social media monitoring, documents carried, more controls on speech and society……Poverty means all are clients of the State, and so must vote as directed to get stuff…. This is the coming future.
For true power the people need to be afraid and dependent, and so this is the plan. If the people are free and well off they are not going to allow government and industry to control them. This is why the Middle class are to be destroyed. The printing such excess money for covid response is to bring about massive inflation, which means savers are to have their safety and comfort and protection of savings harvested by the ‘Inflation Tax’ so the government can inflate away the Vast debt it purposefully created. Taking your savings by inflation tax on money assets are how it is paid – basically by debasing the currency which cancels gov debt, also cancels your savings and pensions, one pays for the other.

Negative Real Interest (0.02% interest and a 6% inflation means your savings are eaten at -5.08% interest compounded.) This causes a phenomenon known as being ‘Pushed out on the Rick Curve‘. As Bonds and banks pay no interest – to keep your savings you Have to buy Bitcoin, Tesla, Amazon, Google… and hope the dividends and stock price inflation will preserve your wealth. And during these times of investment inflation hysteria is does, BUT the ‘Correction’ is coming, and so the risk you were driven to will bite you terribly.

This is Buy Back Better, this is the Great Reset……

Although I could be wrong….

Last edited 2 years ago by Galeti Tavas
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Except this borough has a Tory MP, and the areas slide into deprivation started under Thatcher and her neoliberal privatising of every aspect of the economy. I’m not sure you can blame the left for the North Easts demise, in fact this is almost entirely down to the total hands off approach to the economy the country has followed since the 80’s

Rob Britton
Rob Britton
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Nonsense. I grew up in Teesside. During the sixties Middlesbrough was a place you migrated to to find work, as my dad did. By the time Thatcher arrived on the scene it was a place you migrated from to find work, as I did. It was two decades of socialism that did that. Margaret Thatcher was just there to pick up the pieces, and provide a useful scapegoat for Labour’s failings.

Last edited 2 years ago by Rob Britton
Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Much of Teeside built merchant ships. The closure of Suez Canal led oil tankers size to increase from 50K T to 500K T as they went around the Cape. This meant less ships built and up to 90% reduction in crews: British officers were kept. Japan developed pre fabrication of ships in late 1960s, reduced costs, time and defects; the UK did not. Japan hasfew raw materials and after WW2 developed Khazen principal of continuous improvement and aimed for zero defects. Consequently Japanese ship builders did not spend months correcting defects. When interest rates are high speed of when ship company pays to when they start earning income is vital. British yards were slower than Jpanaese.
All that was needed was for shop stewards from un and semi-skilled unions to travel to Japan and S Korea and see what was happening; they did not go. Containers brought in container ships which are up to 250K Thich reduced need for dockers. Bulk ore carriers also increased in size. By late1960s massive open cast coal, alumina, iron and copper mines reduced costs and 250K T bulk ore carriers reduced transport costs and favoured works built on the coast not inland. Some mines were on rivers which could take 100K T bulk ore carriers, so reduicng costs.

Sandi Dunn
Sandi Dunn
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Why did the suez canal close?

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Sandi Dunn

6 Day War, closed by Egypt. A major problem for Britain since WW2 has been those involved in politics and influencing public lack an understanding of trade, technology and current affairs. Basically we have been run by urban clerks with arts degrees and this is true of all political parties. The days when Britain had MPs like Murdo MacDonald who was engineer who built railways in Scotland, was a colonel in the Royal Engineers in Egypt and Palestine in WW1; designed parts of Aswan Dam and Indus Irrigation System and the founded his own consulting engineering company, are long gone.
There were also dock, shipyard and seamans strikes in 1966. In the 1950s Britain had some of the largest shipping companies in the World. The strikes and move to 500K T oil tankers with an inability of British shipyards to build them competively with Japanese led to companies closing down which led to reduction in orders for shipyards and steel mills.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

To blame everything on a faceless ‘Left’ is to hide away from reality. I know that you don’t live in a big city or conurbation so it is easier for you to hide.

One of the differences between the ‘Left’ and the ‘Right’ is that the former has troops or activists on the ground actually trying to help people. One of my working colleagues is a city Councillor, having responsibility for Housing. The city has a rule that all people will be given shelter (if they want it) on a 24/7 basis. My colleague often gets a call at 2am in order to try to find accommodation for a homeless family. But where are the ‘Right’ when this is happening.

You will say that the problem has been caused in the first place by the ‘Left’. OK, so the Left has tried to help people and this has caused a dependency. So the Left should stop helping to force people to look after themselves?

The real problem in Middlesborough seems to be the role of the police. The police force has become politicised. The targets come from the Home Office and each force is competing to become top of the league. I imagine that results in this league have a big effect on promotion in the force. If the government of the day (the Right) picks Hate Crime (say) as the main target, other offences become less important. To be successful, senior police officers have to have the best Hate Crime results. This is ‘success’. And it all comes from the ‘Right’ today. And only the ‘Right’ can solve the problem.

Steven Farrall
Steven Farrall
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

It’s not really a right / left thing. They are both bankrupt philosophies. It’s a liberty, free markets, personal responsibility thing. Welfare statism did for the heavy industries on which Middlesborough relied. The rent seeking power seeking paternalistic right did nothing about that, in fact they aggravated the problem.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  Steven Farrall

I agree with your recipe. You could also throw in a spoonful of Immigration as well. But all of this is old hat. The question is how to come back from it.
(I’m afraid that I am repeating myself but..) last week I came back from a visit to the London area. I am from the North of England. As I travel from the SE to the NW of England I always see a change of colour – from greenish to grey. The North of England and Wales are just shadows of the south-east. Any government has to address this difference as a matter of priority.
I have an idea. All MPs and senior civil servants have to spend a month every year in the North, Middlesbrough perhaps, and stay in a middle-of the-road B&B and help in the community. This would demonstrate the reality behind the speechifying.

Last edited 2 years ago by Chris Wheatley
Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Cheap energy, a vocational education system to match Switzerland and minimal taxation and and regulation in former industrial areas. After WW2, from 1948 to 1964, German industry was allowed to do more less what it wanted to produce exports.
Governments should only worry about taxes on companies once they are making profits. For every pound spent on accountants, lawyers and HR people and hour spent on legal, accountancy and HR issues,are money and time not spent on developing products, services and selling them. The simplest solution is 25% tax on dividends NOT profits. It is dividends paid to shareholder which would be taxed.
The people of industrial Britain enjoy practical work; they want to produce goods. Cheap energy, the best vocational training in the world and an absence of government regulation in all forms will enable ingenuity to thrive. HR issues have a major drag on productive work.

mike otter
mike otter
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

People above who find fault with this comment are missing the point, as usual. The left want to destroy the economy in every free society as they think it will bring them to power, because they sure as hell can’t win in a fair election. Sure Thatcher chucked the tech* employment baby out with the communist bathwater but given the UK’s legal system what choice did she have? In Germany its against the law to try and take control of society through violent means or form alliances with foreign powers against the German state and its people. Such a law is possible under Roman Law based systems, but not in feudal “pay as you go” set ups like the UK, KSA etc: the laws here are “flexible” to protect the wealthy when they steal, take drugs, commit sex offences or worse. The German system would’ve stopped Scargill, Benn, Livingstone etc and if they persisted put them where they belong – prison. *Engineering, manufacturing, construction, will include the use of electronics or software skills including programming, but is nothing to do with twatter, fakebook etc and its not compulsory to use Apple or Microsoft products or services.

Last edited 2 years ago by mike otter
Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

Great negative statement, looking back on the world and showing us all the errors. But what use is it? How does it help? Does typing on a computer sort out our problems. Everyone else seems to be trying, at least.

Frederick B
Frederick B
2 years ago

We’re told that there’s an abundance of jobs nationwide, especially jobs of the kind that don’t need paper qualifications. So why don’t people move away from Cleveland to fill the vacancies left by people returning to Poland and Romania?
Perhaps they do and that’s part of the problem- only the hopeless and helpless are left.

Tim Bartlett
Tim Bartlett
2 years ago
Reply to  Frederick B

In my part of the world there is an abundance of jobs, especially in manufacturing (mostly food). Money isn’t great, housing costs are enormous and its hard work by and large. It will take you off the states teat and make you your own man though. From what I’ve seen only a minority of Brits are prepared to actually sweat for a living. The ones that do are great though, and come from all generations and backgrounds.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Tim Bartlett

Unemployment is at near record lows, so I think this shows most Brits are perfectly prepared to sweat for a living

Tim Bartlett
Tim Bartlett
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Not really my experience. I’ve watched dozens come and go over the years. I also know of large pockets of unemployment round here, both on and off the books. Still, only a small slice of the world.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Tim Bartlett

Which industry is this, and how much were you paying them? It always amazes me how employers expect total loyalty, hard work and commitment from employees they pay the minimum wage to

mike otter
mike otter
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

We have had jobs available from ÂŁ300-450 day unfilled since about 2001 with a brief respite in 2008-9. We need people with minimum City & Guilds Pt2 and 10+ years experience in engineering and construction. Hardly the minimum wage and all we need is common sense and a work ethic. Degrees and other sinecure type experience not required.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

If you’re that short of staff, have you considered putting your hand in your pocket and training people with skills you need? Or do you just expect somebody else to do it, then go cap in hand to the government to get them to let you import labour from abroad?

Tim Bartlett
Tim Bartlett
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Food. Pay is / has been low, as were / are margins. The reduction in the immigrant labour pool and also a reduction in EU competition is shifting things and a great realignment is starting. For wages in general and who is considered ‘valuable’ in particular change is already beginning. 4.2% inflation is just the start I think. I’ve just been preadvised that the next 12 month wheat contract is likely to be 16% more costly. We’ll see! Anyhow, personally, I’ve worked for minimum wage and always turned up on time. You’d be suprised by how many can’t even do that.

mike otter
mike otter
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Can you find me some? Only contractors and self employed have to work because if they don’t they won’t be paid. We have at least 12-15m paid by the public coin – civil servants, cops and NHS. RWCs/HS2/Crossrail are basically dole schemes as was BAe and Marconi in the 80s. These people are well paid but IME do little work. I understand benefit claimants are given 36k or more per family in cash and kind. So they need incomes of 45k + to justify signing off. Not many jobs like that in Cleveland or any where else in the UK.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
2 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

“So they need incomes of 45k”
It’s a crazy problem. That’s in the ballpark of my earnings as a software engineer with 15 years experience.
Salaries, pay and benefits have become so skewed across the country that the basic model of supply and demand has broken down.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
2 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

National benefits cap is ÂŁ20,000 outside London for a couple or single parent. If the couple splits up the one without the children becomes eligible for another ÂŁ13,400 maximum.
Hard to get that sort of money working most jobs.

Red Reynard
Red Reynard
2 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

Mike,
considering that under universal credit a claimant is only entitled to cover living expenses, i.e., rent, council tax, and food/clothing, I would be surprised at a figure of “…36k or more…”, and would be really interested as to how you came to such a figure.
all the best
Red

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

£36k Sterling for beneficiaries? You clearly have no idea about UK finances as that’s more than the average salary

Samuel Gee
Samuel Gee
2 years ago
Reply to  Frederick B

I’m a welfare sceptic but this kind of issue isn’t an easy nut to crack. Yes sure you could get on your bike and find work. Low skilled low paid work in the south east maybe. But would you necessarily be better off financially? Maybe, a bit. With in-work benefits to help with high rent and the higher cost of living you could get a job 300 miles from your family. Would the taxpayer be better off? Not necessarily, and I am sure that bean counter in SW1A has worked that out. Would the area you left be better off if all the work-capable just left and went south? That’s just the work-capable.The movers and shakers and those with any get-up-and-go moved already, They got up and went leaving an area where recruitment is difficult, investment unlikely, where the school teachers are likely those that couldn’t get a better posting, The police officers those that haven’t decamped to surrounding constabularies, the time servers, the lazy ones, the bent ones. The whole thing is a mess and by no means suseptible to a quick and easy fix.

Terry Davies
Terry Davies
2 years ago
Reply to  Samuel Gee

I agree, mostly, with your post. However, I also have known many teachers and other public servants, who actively seek a post in a challenging area. Public duty?…..

Red Reynard
Red Reynard
2 years ago
Reply to  Frederick B

Frederick,
yeah, it all sounds so easy, doesn’t it – ‘on yer bike’ as Mr (now Lord) Tebbit would say.
However, for someone on minimum wage or ‘universal credit’ it isn’t so easy; first you have to convince an employer to hire you even though you currently live outside of travelling distance, then you have to find a place to live – which means stumping up one month (minimum) in advance + one month (minimum) in bond + one month (minimum) in agency fees + the cost of removals + the cost of utilities connection, then you need the logistical time to do all of the above – and all on minimum wage (@ÂŁ380 gross) or universal credit.
You right in the fact that maybe those who can do – and leave nothing but he helpless behind.
All the best
Red

Sue Whorton
Sue Whorton
2 years ago
Reply to  Red Reynard

Poor old Lord Tebbit. It’s what his father did to get work. Norman learnt to fly and led the Pilot’s strike.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
2 years ago
Reply to  Sue Whorton

I remember a pilot’s strike in the late 60s/early 70s (?), when a pilot’s wife was interviewed on the BBC programme ‘Nationwide’ and asked tearfully “How are we supposed to live on ÂŁ6000 a year?” (then at least 12 times my annual salary). It’s all relative, I suppose.

Frederick B
Frederick B
2 years ago
Reply to  Red Reynard

All true, but it all applies with even greater force to folk from ƁódĆș orTimisoara. The migration of the brightest and most active Poles, Lithuanians, Romanians. etc is a major problem for those countries and I suggest that it applies similarly – albeit on a miniature scale – in Cleveland.

David Bowker
David Bowker
2 years ago

I remember in the 1980’s, when all the factories, steelworks, mines and docks were closing in the north, being told that it was good for us because entrepreneurs would soon turn up and create good new jobs. The cynical said that all we could really hope for was a service economy where we all sold hamburgers to one another. After 40 years of Thatcherism and Blaircherism, it looks like the cynics were right.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  David Bowker

What alternative would you have proposed?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

The Germans managed to keep hold of the bulk of their industrial base, there’s no reason the UK couldn’t have done similar. Instead Thatchers ideological blind spot in believing “the market” could fix everything, trickle down theory and belief that all social problems have a market driven solution have left entire towns a cities decimated, whole industries disappear with no succession planning as to what would replace them

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

Prince Charles is on a Royal visit to Middlesbrough. His plane lands, the door opens and he walks down the stairs to be greeted by the crowd of assembled local worthies.
The latter are taken aback to see that on his head Charles is wearing a rather unique hat. It is a sort of huge sombrero across which an entire fox is strapped. Its feet have been pushed through slots on opposite sides of the hat brim and its brush has been stuffed into its mouth to hold the hat in place.
The mayor and deputy mayor are a bit stunned at this sight. The deputy mayor whispers “Well get on an’ ask, like, what’s the stery aboot that ‘at?”
“I canna ask the Prince er Wales tha'”, objects the mayor. “‘E’s the Prince er Wales, ‘e can wer what er likes, like.”
Prince Charles’ day proceeds with a trip to closed shipyard. Everyone is astonished at the hat but too polite to mention it. He then visits the closed colliery and the closed steelworks, before a fascinating visit to the call centre.
The next event is the gala dinner, at which Charles is still wearing the remarkable hat. The deputy mayor and mayor get a bit oiled, and eventually, at the former’s urging, the mayor says to Charles, “Er, sir, wa couldn’t help but nertice the verra interestin’ ‘at you’ve worn for yer visit to us terday. Was there any special reason yer chers that ‘at?”
“Well, it was one’s valet’s suggestion,” explains Charles.
“Oh aye? What did ‘e say, like?”
“Well,” explains Prince Charles. “One woke up this morning and one said to one’s valet, What do you think one should wear today? And one’s valet said Well I dunno sir, where are you goin’? And one said, Middlesbrough. And one’s valet said…
…drum roll…
Middlesbrough? Well, wear the fox hat!”
It’s the only place so remote there are jokes about it…

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Downvote for rubbish old joke that’s been made about many other places before.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

That pun is so bad, it probably deserved that lead-in.

Red Reynard
Red Reynard
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Aww! Don’t down-vote, folks – this is a fine example of a ‘shaggy-dog’ story in which the lead in is so long as to make the listener the point of the joke rather than the feeble punchline
I once entertained a group from London KX to Durham (I kid you not) with a single example. And fun it was too.
Well done Jon.
all the best
Red

David Tomlinson
David Tomlinson
2 years ago

A really interesting article, though one that struggles to identify the core issues. I have lived in the post industrial North East for the last 15 years. There are common characteristics in each community with decline being related to culture, opportunity and expectation. As regards culture the industrial giants institutionalised their communities. They provided working men’s clubs, kids trips to the seaside, support for brass bands, holiday clubs, sporting events and more. Everyone went on holiday at the same time, the famous ‘factory fortnight’ saw the towns close down and caravans at Redcar and Scarborough fully booked. When the industry went, and bear in mind the job losses where staggering 30,000 from ICI Billingham for example) the culture of corporate community engagement went too. Within a generation over two thirds of the working men’s clubs had gone, pubs followed, shared community endeavours such as bands and clubs all ground to a halt. This decline has been unabated in the last ten years the town of Shildon, population 10,000 saw its last Bank close, its last major supermarket pull out, and its comprehensive school shut. A whole generation have grown up normalising decline. With that comes a huge lack of confidence, communities root their identity in the past with little hope for any meaningful future. This contemporary culture is fed by a lack of opportunity. Many of the young people who go away to University don’t come back and the community looses key skill sets. The lack of confidence effects choice, poor health and low life expectancy is another result. Into this vacuum come the entrepreneurs only they are not selling craft materials or fine coffee, they are selling drugs. Low cost housing is readily available for cannabis and there is money to be made from desperation. Loan sharks thrive lending money for a weekend high, bleeding the poor for whom a high makes life more bearable. With this kind of business comes turf wars, gang violence, and extortion. It all becomes a vicious cycle and expectations are zero. Projects such as the one mentioned in the article are awesome, check out Shildon Alive as another example. The church is hanging in there, with priests often the only professionals living in the communities they serve. If there were easy answers those answers would have been applied. Sure start centres, new schools, investment in youth to create a truly entrepreneurial culture are all part of the answer, but only part. A strategy that treats addiction as a medical rather than criminal could also help, but whatever the political hue of the government this is a long haul, will take a generation, and be a struggle. However there are amazing people here and with a confidence injection they could once more lead the world.

Jerry Smith
Jerry Smith
2 years ago

Well said!

Dustin Needle
Dustin Needle
2 years ago

An incredibly sad piece. With apologies to Robertson/Danko:
Look out Cleveland, storm is coming through, And it’s runnin’ right up on you
But these sort of storms don’t just pass through with a kind of respite afterwards for those who survive. God bless and help Val and Karen, and all the others like them, for whom it’s either too late to escape or in their character/love of the place and it’s people, to stick it out and make the best of what you can.
“Hidin’ your money won’t do no good (no good), build a big wall you know you would if you could yeah”

Jerry Jay Carroll
Jerry Jay Carroll
2 years ago

I know it sounds cynical, but funneling the bad actors into a single area makes better sense than strewing them all over the country. Hire more cops and build more prisons to house them until age releases them from the temptation and ability to cause mischief and worse. That will have a salutary effect on society. The solutions the hand-wringing bleeding-hearts community insist on have failed.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

Never was there a clearer justification for police brutality. Anyone seen Robocop lately?