Our economy's on the way to recovery? The Hull it is...

Jonathan Brown finds struggling residents of a historic city in no mood to celebrate

It was hard not to feel like some swivel-eyed evangelist bringing the Westminster good news gospel of economic recovery to the people of Hull.

There were no triumphant church bells ringing or scenes of wild celebration yesterday at the official ending of the recession. Just the steady procession of the weekday world marching up and down Whitefriargate.

"Who is telling us that then? I don't believe it," said retired docker John Allison, 68, on hearing of the latest figures. "They are still closing businesses down that were given money by the taxpayer to come here."

The third setback in two weeks to Hull's ailing economy came yesterday with the announcement that Kimberley-Clark was shutting, with the loss of 500 jobs , adding to the 300 already lost at vitamin maker Seven Seas and food firm McCains.

The city, which has never recovered from the collapse of its fishing industry, has to create 20,000 jobs just to reach average unemployment levels.

Finding work is hard. Last week, chef Gavin Leigh, 46, dropped off 16 CVs at local kitchens and has now agreed to volunteer with a view to future employment. "I don't believe we ever were in a recession. They have been wasting so much money on things like the Olympics that how could they have been?" he said.

Lynda Heavens, 46, said: "I'm always struggling." It is two years since she worked as a care assistant and she has been eking out £140 a fortnight Job Seekers Allowance. "Me and my friends, we are all in the same boat – we call ourselves the Skint Club."

Sally Clark, 58, an academic proofreader, lost a quarter of the value of her new build home when the builder went bust. "In Hull we are always in recession. It is cut off geographically from the rest of the country and it has a very insular attitude, but I love it and have been here for 30 years," she said.

Jessica Griffin, 21, has just graduated from university with a degree in education. Despite having applied for 40 jobs, she is doing supply and working in a chemist. Her father lost his job after 25 years at British Aerospace in nearby Brough. "You wouldn't think it was over because everyone is still talking about problems. I thought it would be going on for years," she said.

The city is hoping that next year Siemens will go ahead with a new wind turbine factory on the dockside. It is pushing cultural regeneration of the old fruit market, where a David Hockney-backed art gallery is mooted, and plans to grow its university-inspired communications sector. But capital investment is still in cripplingly short supply and unemployment threatens to consign another generation to poverty and poor health.

"Other parts of the country might be, but I don't believe we are out of recession," said Steven Bayes who is in charge of economic regeneration and employment for Hull City Council.

"The rise in unemployment is nothing like it was in the early 1980s but people are struggling, and the cuts to benefits from next April will really hurt people."

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