Cracks appear in regional unity

HOPES of creating a new body to fight for the North East’s needs at a national level appear to be fading.

HOPES of creating a new body to fight for the North East’s needs at a national level appear to be fading.

Business leaders and council chiefs had hoped they could set up a successor body ready for when development agency One North East is abolished in 2012.

The Government was told two months ago the region would be happy to accept one Local Enterprise Partnership – LEP – offering economic support from the River Tweed to the River Tees.

But cracks have started to emerge in the regional unity, with many in the North of the region now privately thinking councils and businesses in Teesside will ask ministers for permission to set up their own partnership.

Teesside would also need the support of key businesses, many of which are wary of breaking up the region.

Such a move would pave the way for three competing partnerships in the region, focused around major city areas such as Sunderland and Tyneside. Any smaller city-based LEPs would inevitably risk losing out to those built around major cities such as Leeds and Manchester, critics claim.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles recently called for local authorities and business leaders to submit proposals for local enterprise partnerships to help re-balance the country’s economy.

He said: “We know that when councils and local business work hand in hand they can drive economic growth together and places can be transformed.

“Local enterprise partnerships are central to this vision, which is why we are asking them what they need.”

In response to a request for those submissions the Association of North East Councils and the Northern Business Forum put together a request to create a regionwide LEP, seen as vital to prevent a fragmented region losing out.

The enterprise partnerships will be able to bid for investment cash from a £1bn two-tear regional growth fund.

Businesses fear the region will face a tough fight to secure cash for projects such as offshore wind facilities if a Sunderland LEP has to compete against a partnership built around Tyneside and others nationwide.

Middlesbrough MP Sir Stuart Bell has urged councils and business in Teesside to fight against a North East LEP.

He said there was a challenge over whether local authorities and the business community “pad up and go out to bat for the Tees Valley, or would they be disunited, with no common approach, ensuring the region lost out to an all-embracing local enterprise partnership covering the whole of the North East?”.

Page 2 - Region's jobless total is highest nationally >>

Region's jobless total is highest nationally

THE North East jobless total remains stubbornly high, latest figures have revealed.

Unemployment in the region between March and May reached 9.4%, the highest rate nationally.

The total unemployed in the region is thought to be around 121,000, an increase of 1,000.

Nationally the number of people unemployed in the UK fell by 34,000 to 2.47m.

All other regions in England, apart from London, saw a drop in the number of people out of work.

Kevin Rowan, Northern TUC secretary said: "These figures show the economy is still struggling to emerge from recession and is hanging in the balance. The Government needs to prioritise job creation as a matter of urgency and pull back from their savage spending cuts which have the potential to decimate employment further."

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said there was "still a huge amount of work to do" to revitalise the economy.

He added: "What concerns me in today’s figures is that, while there are more jobs in the economy, there is too little evidence of them being taken up by the five million people who were stranded on out-of-work benefits under the previous government."

First in line

HERE’S the organisations asked to take immediate funding cuts:

:: 1NG, responsible for £190m 20-year regeneration projects in Tyneside.

:: Codeworks - region’s centre for digital innovation.

:: CPI – Centre for Process Innovation, set up to develop and test new technologies.

:: Regional Language Network.

:: Hadrian’s Wall Heritage – leading North East tourist centre.

:: Narec – National renewable energy centre, building the world’s largest wind turbine testing facility.

:: Newcastle Science City – building a new Science HQ in Newcastle and bringing high level jobs to the city.

:: Sunderland Arc – leading Wearside regeneration efforts, including the Vaux brewery site set to create over 3,000 jobs.

:: Business support groups including:

North East Access to Finance, which administers a £125m regional loan fund, North East Finance, North East Regional Investment Fund Three, North East Regional Investment Fund Partner.

:: CELS – Centre of Excellence for Life Sciences, which promotes and helps the region’s specialist healthcare businesses.

:: Business & Enterprise North East, which supports local businesses and helped more than 12,500 businesses to start and played a part in creating over 14,900 jobs.

:: County Durham Partnership

:: Northumberland Strategic Partnership.

:: Various tourism groups, including Northumberland Tourism Ltd, Tees Valley Unlimited, Tourism Tyne and Wear, Tyne and Wear City Regions, Visit County Durham, Visit Tees Valley, Durham City Vision.

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