Momentum for change is building up
ALMOST every week I call for a sense of purpose within the North East: for unanimity among politicians, the public sector and business; the resources to drive our economic growth; more local power and less of central control and its ‘one size fits all’ approach.
Recent news as reported in The Journal has led me to think that this is now actually possible. Two important announcements have been made.
In the first, the Government expressed support for a newly published study from the think tank IPPR and the Northern Economic Futures Commission. It sets out how we can grow the northern economy (not solely the North East), proposing long overdue investment in transport infrastructure, controlling our own funding and setting up a Northern Leadership Convention to gain a more powerful voice.
Entitled Northern Prosperity is National Prosperity, the report sets out an excellent long-term strategy for economic growth based on a fair rebalancing of the national economy. One of the proposed delivery vehicles would be a Northern Innovation Council funded by £1bn from the sale of the 4G spectrum, with a target to double the number of young people in apprenticeships by 2015.
It found support from Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the treasury, emphasising devolution of power from the ‘dead hand of central control’ and supporting the recent recommendation of Lord Heseltine to transfer much more power to local decision makers.
At the same time, Labour’s MP in Newcastle North, Catherine McKinnell has called for regional support to create the investment required to seize new opportunities. In a recent speech she said: “What we need from the Government is a recognition that there is more to UK plc than the South East and London.”
The second announcement was the appointment of Neil O’Brien as a key adviser to the Chancellor George Osborne – he will act as a ‘Friend in the North’. While Mr O’Brien is a director at a right of centre think tank and there has been a mixed response to this announcement with caution against right-wing ideas, I hope it is a fundamental acknowledgement by Government that it must get serious about tackling the North/South divide.
All of this is a pre-cursor to the eagerly awaited Lord Adonis Report, commissioned by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to identify five key ideas that will enable the North East to achieve economic growth.
Transport infrastructure is clearly a vital component, as the ability to get around and into and out of the region is paramount to achieving economic growth, so the recent announcements of funding to address this was very welcome.
The property and construction sectors have a major role to play in the revival of the North East’s fortunes so we must all ensure that we are ready and able to exploit these chances when they arrive.
Another important element is the ability to work together. We need to put aside any internal differences to make the most of any opportunities that are coming our way to drive growth, create jobs and improve living standards in the region.
This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Kevan Carrick .
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