THE peer leading a review of the North East economy has said the Government must devolve power, money and responsibility if the region’s economy is to be saved.
Lord Adonis is preparing a detailed economic review which will be handed to deputy prime minister Nick Clegg in March.
At an event to review the evidence so far, Lord Adonis was yesterday told by business leaders gathered at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead that education, investment and transport issues must all be tackled.
The former transport secretary had already come under pressure to ensure the region ends its “begging bowl culture” and tackle underperforming schools.
That included a warning yesterday from the CBI that teachers have to improve. Regional CBI chief Sarah Green explained how vital it is to the region’s economic future that schools are put under greater pressure to improve.
She said: “There needs to be a bigger change at the educational level, not just the skills training.
“To work at Nissan, for example, you must have a GCSE in physics, but how many of our schools know that?”
Lord Adonis later told The Journal that it is clear not all schools are doing enough, adding that “we need all schools to be strong schools”.
The peer said the review is likely to ask for many of the city and regional powers last year highlighted in a report by former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine.
Lord Adonis said: “We need significant devolution to the regions and for that to take the form of control over major budgets. Lord Heseltine has already highlighted this and now we need to give that a practical edge in the North East.”
Such devolution is likely only to come about if the region’s seven council leaders can form one legally binding combined authority rather than competing with each other for investment.
Lord Adonis added: “I’m very impressed by the level of partnership working.
“There’s growing culture of partnership and my job is build on that. A big part of the problem here is that London does not devolve enough. If you want people to take responsibility you need to give them power.
“My review will have a very strong message to central Government that it needs to devolve serious powers and budgets if it wants the regions to take charge of their destiny.
“It is not good enough for London to complain without been prepared to devolve. And so say in skills, which is absolutely vital to the region, skills budgets are held by central quangos and that needs to change.”
The review will include a series of requests from Government, regional council chiefs and major businesses.