SHADOW Business Secretary Chuka Umunna has thrown his weight behind The Journal’s mission to bring cash and jobs to the region – but warned ministers were failing the North East economy.
Mr Umunna has backed the newspaper’s Let’s Grow £30m bid to the Government’s Regional Growth Fund which, if successful, could lead to the creation of more than 2,500 jobs. It is being run by The Journal, accountancy firm UNW and the Business and Enterprise Group.
If ministers back the Let’s Grow bid – due to be submitted next month – the cash would lead to a three-year campaign to provide funding for growth for firms of all sizes throughout the North East.
On a visit to the region yesterday, Mr Umunna said: “I’m supportive of the Regional Growth Fund but I just wish the Government was delivering it in a competent fashion.
“We saw last week the National Audit Office report showed it isn’t delivering value for money and it is being delivered in a haphazard, chaotic way.
“I’m delighted to back The Journal’s Let’s Grow campaign to ensure that we get lots of RGF money to responsible growing businesses in the North East who can help to develop the local economy and produce more jobs and better quality jobs in those innovate sectors which we need to grow.” The MP and former employment lawyer was in the region to speak at an event exploring how innovation can drive the future of the North East economy. He also visited Northumbria University and Siemens, in North Tyneside.
Siemens will bring 2,000 jobs to the UK, including 300 at its South Tyneside plant, after it became the preferred bidder to supply trains for the Thameslink route by the Government.
Mr Umunna, however, said despite business flourishing at Nissan, steelmaker SSI, and Hitachi’s plans to bring train-building to Newton Aycliffe, in County Durham, the Government is not doing enough to boost employment. He said: “The Government should adopt active industrial strategy instead of acting as a roadblock to it. For ideological reasons, they are wedded to the old economic approach of Margaret Thatcher and her business secretaries like Nicholas Ridley and that’s what the problem has been.”
He added a move toward regional pay for people working in the public sector would create “perverse incentives”.
He said: “Why would you come and teach in this region when you could go and get paid more in another?”