THE Government is unlikely to expand its enterprise zone at Blyth, a junior minister has revealed in a meeting with North East MPs.
Just 14 hectares of the original regional bid of 101 hectares has been sanctioned for business tax breaks at the Port of Blyth so far, with no indication of it being considered for development.
And at a meeting in Westminster yesterday on the North East economy, MPs heard that at just one tenth of its requested size, the enterprise zone is now believed to be too small to be effective in bringing jobs to the region.
At the meeting organised by South Shields MP David Miliband, a host of North East MPs put forward questions to Liberal Democrat Jo Swinson, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Employment relations, consumer and postal affairs.
The meeting came after Chancellor George Osborne announced a 50% expansion to enterprise zones in the North East – though it is now understood none of the extensions will be in Northumberland.
Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell criticised the Government for giving his constituency just a 14-hectare site at the Port of Blyth when it originally bid for much more to remedy the region’s economic decline.
He said: “Last year, we asked the Chancellor to look into an enterprise zone on the River Blyth. He said he would look at it – fair dos to him – but what did we get? We put in for 101 hectares, to be exact, which was too big, so we put in again for 66 hectares, which the Port of Blyth thought would be a bit more reasonable.
“Even though all the land is there, lo and behold, the Port of Blyth got an enterprise zone of 14 hectares from the Government. As far as I am concerned, that is not enough.”
Ms Swinson said: “I appreciate he is unhappy with the 14 hectares of enterprise zone, but he has campaigned hard to get the enterprise zone, and I am glad that he at least acknowledged that the Treasury listened and granted the request.”
She added that the Newcastle city deal – which could create up to 13,000 jobs – is excellent for the city and said that the North of England received £1bn of European regional development funds in the most recent finance round.
At the meeting Labour MP Catherine McKinnell, for Newcastle North, criticised the Government for its “generic UK approach” to economic problems which is letting down the regions.
She also doubted whether local enterprise partnerships have the capacity to drive forward the region’s economy.