Newcastle is a great city to do business. And our business leaders have a great ambition to succeed, in a competitive, international business environment.
They also know that business success needs to be rooted in the place they live and work.
A good business environment in Newcastle will be critical to our region’s economic prosperity long into the future.
This month, businesses in the city centre have had the chance to vote to retain the Business Improvement District, NE1 Ltd, for five more years. It would have been so easy for hard-pressed business to vote against an initiative which adds to their cost-base.
It’s a measure of the pride and commitment to Newcastle that no less than 78% of those who voted, on a high turnout, made a commitment to continue to invest in the improvement of our great city centre.
As leader of Newcastle City Council, I want to thank all the businesses that came forward to cast their vote. You have shown the best of business, working together to improve Newcastle’s business environment, taking responsibility and not simply relying on the public sector. Newcastle setting an example to city centres around the country.
The vote means that NE1 can continue its great work to deliver major capital projects in the city, lever in multi-million pound investment as well as bringing world class events into the city.
This will attract ever greater numbers of visitors, create opportunities for young people, and, through the work of the Street Rangers, keep our streets clean and welcoming. And, in a unique deal, the City Council has agreed to continue to support NE1’s Alive after Five initiative by helping to meet the cost of providing free parking in council car parks after 5pm, continuing to re-invigorate early evening shopping and leisure opportunities in the city centre.
In the teeth of a recession, this has helped ensure that the Alive after Five period of the day has been worth £250m since 2010. Footfall in the city centre is up by 5.4% compared with an average decline for regional cities of 2.2%.
NE1 have ensured that the needs of the city’s businesses are central to our plans for investment in the city centre, creating value for the sector with benefits to the wider community and improving everyone’s quality of life.
The “yes” vote is another boost for these plans, which will continue to see our city transformed. Although it’s causing some temporary disruption, NE1, the council, East Coast and Network Rail are working together to transform the central station into an international transport gateway for 21st Century, with modern facilities for pedestrians, drivers, cyclists and visitors to the city.
And I know NE1 have even more ambitious plans for the future which will put Newcastle firmly on the international map as a fantastic place to visit and invest in.
With this yes vote, Newcastle businesses have shown they not only have confidence in the future, they have given their commitment to shape it.