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Shropshire Star comment: Pay divide is a worry for region

By Shropshire Star | Opinions | Published:

After years of progress and powering ahead, Telford has stepped back into a time machine and is revisiting the early 1980s.

The physical landscape and what the town has to offer has changed massively since those days. But new figures showing who in this county has got the money, and who has not, come like a tide of nostalgia – and we’re not talking of pleasant memories of the past in this case.

In the early 1980s one in five of the Telford workforce was unemployed. On top of that, the new town was the low pay capital of the West Midlands.

Then new investment poured in, much of it from abroad, and the town emerged from the doldrums into an era of prosperity and boom.

In the 21st century, major new business and industrial developments, together with the transformation of what the town centre can offer thanks to the Southwater development, were indications of a town heading towards its 50th birthday – which fell last year – with confidence and style.

But new figures from the Office for National Statistics show that Telford & Wrekin is lagging behind the rest of Shropshire.

The average person in the Shropshire Council area had £19,133 left over after tax, up one per cent, while in Telford & Wrekin they have considerably less, £15,937 left over after tax, down 0.7 per cent.

In isolation, these may not be figures to worry about too much. For instance, if you told somebody that people in Shropshire’s rural villages are better off than those on housing estates in Telford, nobody is going to be very much surprised.

And Telford is Shropshire’s largest urban area, and in the town’s diverse jobs mix there are many unskilled, lower-paid, or part-time jobs.

But the ONS figures from only a few days ago point to Telford being a low pay blackspot. The worry is that Telford has started to fall behind, failing to emerge from the dark cloud of austerity, when other areas are seeing the economic sunlight.

All those years ago Telford was conceived as a town for the future. It had its tough times but overcame them and flourished. It would be tragic if the clock was now being turned back.

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