Ruth Mitchell

Member Article

Key issues raised at Bdaily debate

Last Friday’s ‘The State of The Region’ saw some of the regions most prominent voices in politics and business in intense discussion over the most important issues facing the North East.

The panel consisted of: eminent businessman Bill Midgely, Blaydon MP Dave Anderson, Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell, Conservative Party Spokesperson Anne-Marie Trevelyan, North East MEP Martin Callanan, businessman Jalf Ali and local serial entrepreneur, Ammar Mirza.

As a precursor to the debate, each panelist was asked to outline their current views on the region.

Bill Midgely, said: “One of our problems is that we look at short term measures and change direction far too often, and that’s been one of my criticisms of the development agencies over the last 10 years or so.

“We come up with an economic strategy and it doesn’t work within 18 months, so we just come up with another. We have to focus on one that is long-term and sustainable.”

Martin Callanan identified weaknesses in the private sector, noting the heavy reliance on Nissan and its associated companies, which account for 50% of the manufacturing output of the region.

On the issue of unemployment, Conservative Party Spokesperson, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, said employers were finding it difficult to find a workforce with the correct skills, and suggested apprenticeships could be the answer to this challenge.

Catherine McKinnell MP responded by saying she was concerned about the effect of unemployment on women in the region, and expressed her concern about the knock-on effect this would have on young people.

Education arose from the discussion on employment and skills shortages, as Martin Callanan MEP suggested that local authorities had previously failed to provide the levels of education to turn out an adequate work force.

This point was refuted by Dave Anderson MP, who said coalition cuts to education would damage the work done by Labour to ensure more children in deprived parts of the region attained 5 GCSEs or over.

Funding was another key theme to arise around the table, as Catherine McKinnell MP suggested the Government had failed to assist businesses in accessing and “drawing down” European money.

Problems in match-funding from the private sector to access regional development fund money was highlighted.

Martin Callanan MEP said: “We have to live within our means, and this will affect transport infrastructure, education policy and ERDF funding.

“Let’s look to what we can do in the future however. Within the limited resources we have available we have the regional growth fund, we have the LEPs, we have the more targeted enterprise zones: so there is support going in there.”

Bill Midgley expressed his want for an agency that could pull funding together, and really drive forward development in the North East.

Within this, he suggested such an agency should be steered more from the business community, and less by politicians, as he stated those “living at the sharp end of business” were best placed to inspire other businesses and make important decisions on what should be supported.

Ammar Mirza echoed these sentiments, and suggested that the LEPs had not been constructed with adequate representation from the business community.

Following the debate, we have tasked the panelists with drawing together a tangible action plan, detailing solutions to some of the key issues raised.

The debate was filmed by Pyramid Media for the Bdaily Business News Network website, but if you would like a preview of the audio click here:

Key issues raised at Bdaily debate

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Ruth Mitchell .

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