Great North Road trip highlights regional inequality

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Grantham landlord David Spearman shows Penny Marshall the cottages he owns. Photo: ITV News

On my journey along the Great North Road, I went to two very different places, and found two very different situations.

In Grantham, where there is low unemployment - even relative prosperity still - I met people from what you might call 'squeezed middle-England'.

They were Thatcher's children who mostly believed they could trim their sails and get safely through this recession.

Grantham-based Totemic is a financial services firm which helps people struggling with debts. Credit: ITV News

But I had a very different experience in the East End of Sunderland, one of the UK's poorest areas, where people were full of pessimism.

We often measure the impact of this recession through economic indicators. We talk about fuel poverty and food poverty, but what I saw in Sunderland East was poverty of opportunity.

One in five of the 16 - 18 year-olds there don't have any reason to get up in the morning - they are not in education training or employment.

The number of so called NEETS nationally maybe falling, but it isn't here.

Unemployment overall rose 13 percent in this area last year.

Derek Rowall said he saw no sign of the 'Big Society' in Sunderland. Credit: ITV News

I found a sense of hopelessness here that the majority of us who still live in relative prosperity can't understand.

It is true some of the areas problems predate this recession.

And it is true the government has introduced policies like the pupil premium to try to reach impoverished communities this.

But I spoke to people who felt increasingly cut off from the prosperity and opportunities others enjoy.

Amongst the sea of affluence out there, there are islands of poverty where life is very tough indeed.

More in the Great North Road series: