David Cameron has rejected pleas to create a new “minister for the North East” as he insisted the region’s economy was already growing.
The Prime Minister was urged to appoint a single minister to lead economic development efforts, by Newcastle East MP Nick Brown.
Mr Brown, a former chief whip, said the post was needed because local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) weren’t working.
Speaking in the House of Commons Mr Brown, who was minister for the North East between 2007 and 2010, urged the Prime Minister to revive the post and appoint a Government minister to oversee the work of LEPs, agencies which bring local authorities and business leaders together in an effort to create private sector jobs.
Mr Brown asked Mr Cameron when he next planned to visit the North East, saying: “When the Prime Minister next visits, he will see again for himself that the key issue facing the region is unemployment.
“There are more than 20 applicants for every advertised vacancy. His policy of local enterprise partnerships and enterprise zones is not having the same effective impact on the region’s economy as the development agency.
“Will he consider the appointment of a minister to work with the local enterprise partnerships and Members of Parliament from the region to push forward the private sector employment agenda?”
But the Prime Minister said the existing ministers already worked with enterprise zones, and insisted the Government’s efforts to create jobs were working.
He said: “Obviously we want to see more, but employment in the North East is up by 9,000 and private sector jobs in the North East by 37,000 since the election.”
He highlighted investment at the Nissan factory in Sunderland, where production of the first mass-market electric vehicle to be fully produced in the UK is supporting 500 jobs.
Mr Cameron added: “There is not only the success at Nissan: Hitachi is committed to building a new train-building plant in County Durham, which will bring 700 jobs; the new Tyne Tunnel opened in 2011; and extra money is going into the Tyne and Wear Metro. All those things will make a difference.”
Regional ministers were appointed by Gordon Brown to oversee the work of regional development agencies – the Government agencies set up by Labour to support regional economies – such as One NorthEast.
These agencies were scrapped by the Coalition Government and new ministers have not been appointed.
The Conservatives did appoint shadow ministers for major cities while in opposition, but the idea of city ministers was scrapped once the Tories took office.
The North East has the highest unemployment rate in the country with 10.1% of the workforce – 131,000 people – on the dole.
Employment in the North East is up by 9,000 and private sector jobs in the North East by 37,000 since the election