A former international trade adviser has caused an uproar on social media after criticising Darlington.
Ben Ramanauskas tweeted about how the new government role, titled head of labour market and unemployment policy, is “ridiculous” due to its promise of a £60,000 salary and because “the person would have to live in Darlington!” He added that the role is “not going to get decent people applying” and that it was “not great money for an important job.”
Northerners united to snap back at Ben’s comments about Darlington, who then quickly re-clarified that he was not trying to “insult” the area but said it was “obviously not as an attractive place to live as London.” Darlington MP Peter Gibson quickly responded, adding: “In a single tweet you demonstrate exactly why moving jobs from London to places like Darlington is so important.”
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Ben continued to defend his corner, even saying that to attract “top-quality candidates,” the job role would have to be based in Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, or Edinburgh, but “definitely not somewhere like Darlington!”
He added: “And don’t get me wrong, £60k is nice money and much higher than the national average, but if you’re competing with consultancy firms and banks etc for talent, the government isn’t going to attract those people especially if they also have to live in Darlington!”
Jennifer Williams, the northern correspondent for Financial Times, tweeted: “One problem is centralised decision-making and the comparatively low growth of our cities; Darlington may not bring the best bang for the government’s buck. Unfortunately another problem – which people notice – is the sneering attitude often taken to vast swathes of the country.”
One user tweeted: “Ever been to Darlington, Ben? I moved there 14 months ago from London and it’s been a great move. Might come as a shock, but big cities don’t appeal to everybody, and don’t have a monopoly on talent. It’s a self-perpetuating mistruth in my opinion.”
Teesside Live spoke to MP Peter Gibson about why he felt he needed to respond to the tweet. He said: “I felt the tweet denigrated the community that I represented and lied in the face of the government commitment to levelling up the North-East. We know that talent is spread equally throughout the country but opportunities aren’t.
“Not only that but it’s really important that, as the government evolves, decisions are taken with real lived experiences from the communities where they are based. Getting a real-life perspective inside those organisations. I felt there was an air of superiority, an air of condescension and it’s clear from Ben’s tweet that he’s never even visited Darlington! He won’t know about the tremendous work that goes on in our community and the global impact.
“Some of the challenges we face are deep-seated because we’ve been ignored and forgotten about by governments of all colours for generations. This levelling up agenda and the delivery that we’re seeing in the Tees Valley, led in part by Ben Houchen, is supported by my other conservative colleagues and is supported massively by our northern chancellor.”
Teesside Live has tried to contact Ben Ramanauskas for a comment.
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