Jeremy Middleton says North East's 'begging bowl image' has to end

LORD Adonis must tell the North East its "begging bowl" days are over when he unveils his economic review, a senior Conservative businessman has said.

Jeremy Middleton and (inset) Lord Adonis

LORD Adonis must tell the North East its "begging bowl" days are over when he unveils his economic review, a senior Conservative businessman has said.

Jeremy Middleton, head of a £50m enterprise fund, has called on the former transport secretary to pull no punches when he sets out the direction of his review this week.

Mr Middleton, who sits on the local enterprise partnership which commissioned the document, wants to see the former minister make it clear that the region has to start solving its own problems.

Lord Adonis is reviewing the North East economy for the council and business partnership before sending his findings to deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.

At a meeting set to be attended by more than 200 business heads at the Baltic tomorrow, Lord Adonis will set out the evidence underpinning his report.

This, Mr Middleton said, is the perfect chance for Lord Adonis to make a bold pitch to the region.

“This is a potential watershed moment for us,” the former Tory national convention chairman said.

“My hope and expectation is that the report Lord Adonis produces will say that we can make a significant change to the region’s economy, we can take it from one which is largely public sector led to one which has a stronger private sector.

“But importantly, the tools that we need to do that are in our hands. We no longer have, and indeed we never benefited from, a culture of hand outs from London. The begging bowl image has to end.

“We have potential here to do something about that – to, for example, make the North East the UK’s leading region for advanced manufacturing.

“That will need tremendous ambition and the ability for us to motivate ourselves to perform better, especially in education and skills training.

“ Frankly, as a region, we are not good enough in educational terms.”

To help force up standards Mr Middleton called for more focus on supporting engineering academies and colleges similar to the one opened in Gateshead and linked to electric vehicle maintenance.

Part of any eventually economic success, Mr Middleton says, will have to come from the creation of a combined authority.

The investor is one of many from the private sector putting mounting pressure on council leaders and chief executives to put aside their differences and form a legally-binding combined authority.

“We need them to put aside parochial concerns and start thinking bigger, and I’m confident they will do this,” Mr Middleton said.

Other steps Lord Adonis is under pressure to announce is a new focus on ensuring firms benefit from available private-public venture capital funds.

A bid to secure a percentage of new business tax receipts are kept in the region should be made to Treasury, Mr Middleton added. A similar model was included in Greater Manchester’s City Deal, with some £2bn made available for investment over the next 25 years.

 

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