Member Article

Bdaily debate raises strategic planning issue

The first in our series of follow-up articles on the Bdaily ‘State of the Region’ debate, focuses on the key issue of strategic planning in the North East. Despite their vastly conflicting political views, all panelists made calls for a cohesive, long-term plan for the region.

However, a number of barriers in establishing this were identified; not least the dividing forces of party politics. Could the region realistically achieve a joined-up plan of action, with everyone rallying behind a single vision? The need for a working partnership between agencies, politicians and business was identified as the starting point in the road to establishing a united front for change.

Prominent North East businessman Bill Midgley said: “Certainly a more cohesive approach to economic growth is required. This must be regionally led and reflect Regional need and not what is so often Central Government dogma. We are ‘preached at’ far too often and for far too long, usually by those who have little experience of the Region.”

However, not everyone is in agreement that such groundwork is needed, as Paul Callaghan of the Leighton Group, and former chairman of One North East, made clear. He commented: “There is a regional economic strategy that was well researched and written with consultation from across a broad range of industry. It’s what the LEPs have to work on, and there is certainly no need to re-write a plan for the region.”

As Paul’s comments highlight the potential role of the LEPs in driving forward the region. As the Government have introduced the North East and Teesside LEPs as two separate entities, will there be enough synergy between them to power the region along as a whole?

Paul McEldon, chief executive of the North East BIC, said: “Whilst the new LEPs don’t give us that one voice that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be working together on common goals and we must ensure this happens. We must also remember that there are other bodies who do speak with one voice in the region. We have a very strong Chamber and I lead the National enterprise Network in the region giving a voice to start ups at a national level.”

Dave Anderson, Labour MP for Blaydon, was of the opinion that under Labour, the region had some success in driving forward on a national stage. He said: “In the last decade GVA in the North east was second only to London; From mid 90’s to 2008 we saw an 11.2% rise in numbers in work. This was not a region in decline, rather we saw through genuine partnership working a region developing its place in the economic infrastructure of the UK.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Tom Keighley .

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