Call for £1bn Lord Adonis fund to boost North East economy

A review of the North East economy by Lord Adonis is to be discussed tomorrow in Newcastle by city leaders

Lord Adonis
Lord Adonis

A £1bn bid to turn Lord Adonis’s North East economy rescue plan into reality will be handed to ministers this autumn.

City leaders from the world of politics, employment and education will meet in Newcastle tomorrow to discuss their response to the peer’s hard-hitting review of the failings and opportunities in the regional economy.

The team commissioning the review is set to ask permission to use a new round of European funding to underpin the key recommendations.

Members of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, backed by council leaders and major employers, have been handed control of the next five years worth of EU investment cash, worth more than £500m with a requirement for all spending to be match funded by local authorities or private sector firms.

Ministers will decide by January whether to agree the overall aim for the fund, but in theory the partnership has been given a unique opportunity to spend £1bn on the employment, infrastructure and business needs identified throughout the region.

Jeremy Middleton, director of a private enterprise firm, is heading up the partnership’s European cash team, and said the money provided the North East with “a once in a generation” chance to begin reversing decades of dependency on the public sector for employment.

The Adonis report published earlier this year set out ways in which the region must change if its economy is to grow. That included forming a super-council to end parochial in-fighting and cover all big decisions, using skills cash to order colleges to teach subjects needed by major employers and to secure funding to help grow the private sector.

Lord Adonis’s review was criticised by Durham MP Kevan Jones, who said the report was not the answer to the region’s troubles, adding that “many things in that report are complete nonsense, and that it has been given a status in the North East far beyond its content.”

Mr Middleton though said it was important the region had the framework to build on.

He said: “It’s a blueprint, but that is what we need for the North East. The quality of that depends on the support it gets, whether we make it happen. A plan that will turn us from a public sector economy to a private sector economy that delivers 60,000 jobs is one I would be happy to back.

“We need to focus on the key things that Adonis tells us will produce 60,000 jobs. And growing small to medium sized enterprises is the key to improving our economy.”

Last night Ian Malcolm, the leader of South Tyneside Council and a key force in plans to bring together a combined authority in the North East, said he was pleased with the region’s response to Lord Adonis.

He said: “I think that the governance of the region is coming together extremely well.

“As has been said, the Adonis review didn’t tell us a lot we didn’t already know, but what it did for the first time was identify who should be doing what, to prevent us just duplicating and competing.”

MPs in parliament will today debate the report as they look at what is needed to help improve the North East economy.

A spokesperson for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills said: “The Independent Economic Review conducted by Lord Adonis put forward a range of interesting ideas and proposals. These are being considered by the North East LEP as part of the discussions around its Growth Deal and Strategic Economic Plan.”

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