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What is the middle class?

The economy and living standards came under the spotlight in January's edition of Around The House.

MPs debated the Labour leader Ed Miliband's promise this week to 'rebuild our middle class'.

They also considered the effect of the Chancellor's warning that billions of pounds of extra spending cuts will be needed after the next general election.

Watch the full debate between the Labour MP for Durham North, Kevan Jones, the Liberal Democrat member for Westmorland and Lonsdale, Tim Farron and the Conservative MP for Skipton and Ripon, Julian Smith:

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600 jobs coming to Tyneside as OGN wins contract

An EnQuest ship on the River Tyne. Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

OGN Group, the North East-based offshore engineering company, will create 600 jobs on Tyneside after winning a new multi-million pound contract with oil and gas firm EnQuest.

OGN will help rebuild one of EnQuest's 249m vessels. Once the work is completed, the vessel will then go to work in the North Sea's oil fields.

David Edwards, chief executive at OGN Group, said: “This project will have a significant impact on the North East economy, particularly in terms of creating employment and providing opportunities for the region’s high quality supply chain."

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Buyer sought for Whitworth Hall

Whitworth Hall goes into administration Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

A buyer is being sought for Whitworth Hall Hotel in Spennymoor near Durham.

The popular wedding venue is operated by Whitworth Hall Country Park Limited, which was placed in administration on 18 October.

Administrator Andrew Haslam said: “Following the sudden passing of the managing director a few months ago, the remaining directors have continued to operate the business to the best of their ability, however due to the general economic climate, they have been unable to turn the business around.

"We are confident of finding a buyer quickly [and] have already received significant interest in the business as a going concern.

“In the meantime, we look forward to welcoming the wedding parties for the celebrations booked over the next two weekends and would like to reassure them and other customers that it is very much business as usual.”

Tackling youth unemployment

A learning factory has been set up by a charity aiming to tackle youth unemployment.

The Employability Trust, in Peterlee, offers work placements to 16-24 year olds, where they can gain manufacturing experience and the skills they need to find a job.

Some candidates have gone on to to employed by the Trust and many others have found work.

It has been set up by businessman Bill Marley, who says his aim is to inspire young people in East Durham.

The Trust supports young people who are not in education, employment or training by offering them practical experience and vocational work.

It is run from a warehouse in Peterlee and the charity bids for work from multi-national companies to cover its costs.

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