Paul Woolston
Tom Keighley

North East businesses urged to have their say on regional strategy

Business, individuals and voluntary and community organisations are being encouraged have have their say on the North East Strategic Economic Plan (SEP), which aims to bring billions to the region.

The North East LEP-drafted plan will form the core of a bid to the Government’s £2 billion per annum Local Growth Fund, and programmes funded for other local, national and European sources.

The SEP aims to halve the gap between the North East and the national average (excluding London) on five key indicators: gross value added (GVA) per full time equivalent (FTE): private sector employment density: business density: employment rate and unemployment rate.

Lord Andrew Adonis, who chaired the North East Independent Economic Review, welcomes the progress of the North East SEP.

He said: “The North East Strategic Economic Plan provides a fantastic opportunity for the North East economy to truly realise its potential.

“The first task for the North East is to agree this draft plan, and once approved, implement it. There is huge capacity for the region’s future success, with will, leadership and a clear plan for action. The plan will help the North East LEP area raise its performance and drive growth.”

Among the proposed initiatives within the SEP is an ‘Entrepreneurs First’ £30 million competition and two £25 million catalytic innovation competitions.

The SEP also promises a 25% increase in finance for SMEs, including an expanded JEREMIE programme.

Subject to backing from the Department of Education, a North East Schools Challenge would be launched and a £160 million investment in high level skills development over the next six years.

A £160 million ‘Inclusive North East’ project by the LEP and government will aim to eliminate gender, race, age and cultural gaps in employment.

In infrastructure, an international advanced manufacturing park, built around the Nissan campus at Washington is planned, and investment programmes totalling £650 million over the next ten years to the A1 and A19 trunk roads, the Ashington-Blyth-Tyne rail line and to the East Coast Main Line (Leamside Line).

Paul Woolston, chair of the North East LEP said: “This long-term economic plan is vital for continued growth and productivity in the North East LEP area. We are looking to strike a new relationship with Government, working together with it and our local business, higher and further education, voluntary and public sector partners to deliver real growth for the North East, and contribute to UK economic prosperity.

“The Adonis Review and our European Structural and Investment Funds strategy underline the importance of shifting the emphasis from the national to the local, and how all of our partners are committed to making this happen.

“We have a strong track record in designing and taking forward innovative initiatives such as the Skills Incentives Pilot, our £38m allocation for the North East Investment Fund and the success of the North East Enterprise Zone. There is a real desire across the LEP area’s businesses, education and public sectors to be innovative, ambitious and integrated in our work. Through the Local Growth Fund we will be able to deliver on the SEP’s aims effectively and as quickly as possible.”

The draft North East Strategic Economic Plan is online and consultation is available from http://www.nelep.co.uk/agenda-for-growth/

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