Research finds Teesside has weakest economic resilience
Teesside is poorly placed to weather any shocks to its economy, according to new research commissioned by the BBC.
The report by Experian ranks the resilience of English council areas to economic shocks, such as public sector cuts.
Middlesbrough is the least resilient council area overall at 324 with Redcar and Cleveland and Hartlepool just above it at 319 and 316 respectively.
Darlington is further up the list at 260 and Stockton at 252.
The research does not show the areas which will suffer the greatest amount of public sector cuts.
But it aims to show how different areas could respond to shocks such as those cuts.
Researchers looked at four key themes - business, community, people and place - and 33 different factors were looked at to produce the index.
These included the strength of the local business base, people's skill levels, life expectancy, crime rates and house prices.
As well as being placed bottom overall, Middlesbrough is lowest in the business and community categories.
Researchers found high levels of claimants in the town, low life expectancy and poor social cohesion.
It also suffered from the highest crime rates in the region, comparatively low house prices, and a lack of green spaces.
Redcar and Cleveland and Hartlepool are also in the bottom three for business.
There are some positives though. Stockton and Middlesbrough fare better in terms of the number of companies in growth sectors.
Sir Stuart Bell, Middlebrough's Labour MP, said: "From 1979 to 1981 Teesside lost 20,000 jobs in the chemical, steel and shipbuilding [industries].
"Over many years, some of these were transferred to public sector jobs, and in our area something like 43% of the workforce is in the public services."
He said the government was making a "fundamental" mistake in thinking that the private sector would step in to create jobs.
"You don't go from the public sector to the private sector, you go from the public sector to the dole queue," he said.
"We've lifted ourselves up considerably over the years, and will keep doing that but we have to be positive in our approach.
"We have the skills, and it's a great area. We have to keep plugging it, but it is hard."
Middlesbrough mayor Ray Mallon said many of the academics behind such polls had never visited the town.
He said: "We know where we are going and what we are trying to do is do things differently.
"The bottom line is that if you keep doing the same things over and over again you will get the same result. We want a different result in Middlesbrough."
He said one of their main aims was to encourage people living in the north-east of England to visit the town and that would encourage economic growth.
Watch the BBC Look North debate on BBC One at 2235 BST on Thursday and listen to the BBC Tees debate at 0900 BST on Friday.
On Sunday, The Politics Show: North East and Cumbria will further explore the debate from 1100 BST.