THE Government is today expected to unveil a series of enterprise zones built around growing the manufacturing industry.
Council-run local enterprise partnerships will be offered the chance of coming together to form the zones, which will see councils given the chance to retain business rates for up to 25 years, with cash pooled and distributed across all local authorities in the area.
Both the Tees Valley Partnership and the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, covering regeneration in the seven councils from Durham to Northumberland, are hoping to secure the new zones.
On Tyneside, Conservative elected mayor Linda Arkley has said the introduction of such a zone in Wallsend would kick-start the North Bank of the Tyne project, aimed at bringing in many more turbine manufacturing jobs.
Treasury insiders are reported to have said that council partnerships handed an enterprise zone will be able to reduce business rates, but only to attract manufacturers.
Mrs Arkley said: “We cannot afford to sit around and wait for Government to do our work for us. Instead we’re looking at ways to help ourselves, which is why we’re already working with public and private sector partners to market and position the North Bank of the Tyne as one of the most attractive locations for offshore manufacturing and renewables development, in Europe.
“We need to be proactively shouting about what we have to offer and are well-prepared to harness any interest that comes forward. There is no reason why we should miss out on the inward investment opportunities that are out there, because we have to wait for Government.
“And if we are successful in securing an Enterprise Zone for the North East, that would be an even bigger incentive for the kind of inward investment we want to attract, and the final piece of the jigsaw.
“But notwithstanding that, we will still continue with our ambitious plans for the North Bank of the Tyne which we’re confident will bring far-reaching positive opportunities to this region.”
It is thought the chancellor will today announce a handful of specific zones and then invite council partnerships to bid for up to 20 nationwide.
Ross Smith, head of policy at the North East Chamber of Commerce, said the zones would only be welcomed if they do not simply divert investment from other areas.
He added: “The policy will not make sense unless they help areas which have a smaller private sector, and the North East obviously counts there.
“But we cannot just have a scatter gun approach, that would defeat the point.”