Sunday, 11 November 2007

Ghost Ships and Tall Ships

So the Ghost Ships Saga is all over bar the shouting and even the Mayor has finally come off the fence on the issue by criticising the Planning Committee for its stance and the potential legal bills faced by the Council.

Unfortunately for the Mayor I believe a major contributing factor to the whole sorry mess has been the Mayor’s failure to provide clear leadership. Under the Mayoral System if the Mayor and his cabinet had made their support for the ships clear four years ago then the issue would have been sorted out sooner since the powers of the average, non-executive Councillor are trivial when compared to those of the Mayor and his chosen cabinet.

My own position has always been not that we couldn’t dismantle the ships but that we shouldn't dismantle them there? Amongst other things jobs are now being used to justify the decision. Hundreds of jobs may be created but, in my opinion, they will be mainly low skill work and will almost inevitably go to migrant labour, not residents of Hartlepool.

From day one as a Hartlepool Councillor I have been told the future for Hartlepool is in tourism and service industries. Ship dismantling and waste dumps are hardly compatible with that type of future. Following this decision Hartlepool Council needs to seriously look at their regeneration policies. Hartlepool will never attract white collar workers. Just look at when the MOD were rationalising their stores depots a few years ago. The choice was an overcrowded, very expensive site near Bath or a huge, underutilised site near Eaglescliffe. The jobs went to Bath!

Hartlepool is a northern, industrial town. The ghost ships decision proves that. If Hartlepool Council, are serious about regeneration then they should stop the fantasy about tourism and start looking for real jobs. Let's start lobbying now for a new nuclear power station! That would be 100’s of direct jobs and 100’s more supporting service jobs for the next 60 to 100 years. A new Power Station would bring real money into the town and the jobs would be real, high skill, long term jobs. Unfortunately the only things exciting Hartlepool Council at the moment appears to be Hartlepool United Football Club and of course the Tall ships race. Unfortunately neither of these will build a long term, sustainable economy in Hartlepool and definitely not the Tall Ships Race which will be a three day wonder that the Council taxpayers will be paying for for years.

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