Last week Tyne and Wear was granted City Regions Pathfinder status. This means that it is one of 13 successful cities to receive additional funding and flexibility to tackle unemployment.
This represents a radical overhaul of how the Welfare State provides services as it moves from a one- size-fits-all solution designed and delivered by Whitehall. Tyne and Wear, as a consequence, will be given greater freedom to provide individually tailored programmes and solutions to local problems.
In order to secure this status, the region submitted plans to pool resources and expertise in order to tackle specific problems that stop people from getting into work.
The Government is providing £5m nationally to get the plans off the ground and, if we are successful in meeting Government-agreed targets, the region will be eligible for extra funding that can be re-invested into local services and priority areas.
As increasing participation is identified as key to raising the economic performance in the region and is a core principle of the Regional Economic Strategy, this is a critical opportunity and the additional funding will be welcomed.
However, more important is the additional flexibility awarded. As a region, we have always stated that we know best how to solve our own problems and have continually lobbied for greater policy flexibility.
Now we have an opportunity to demonstrate this through developing our own plans to help people off benefit dependency and into work.
And this new status is awarded in recognition of our local authorities' working together to bid as one city region. Over the past weeks there has been much debate about the governance of city regions following the OECD report. Let's not `navel gaze'. Instead let us focus on practical examples of how, across the local authorities, we can make a difference by working together.
This award gives us an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the city region concept without endless debate about governance structures
Let us take this opportunity to prove to that Government that we can deliver regional solutions to regional problems and that we can work across administrative boundaries without the need for further levels of bureaucracy.
Real results are much better ammunition with which to influence than academic reports. And a demonstration of how the city region concept can provide tangible benefits to the region is far more likely to engage the key stakeholders.
Sarah Green is regional director of CBI North East.