Lord Adonis ready to set out his grand design for North East

THE man tasked with turning round the region’s economy will today set out his no-holds-barred review of the North East’s failings and the route to future success.

Lord Adonis has studied the North East and its problems
Lord Adonis has studied the North East and its problems

THE man tasked with turning round the region’s economy will today set out his no-holds-barred review of the North East’s failings and the route to future success.

Former transport secretary Lord Adonis will today publish his North East economic review with a list of recommendations for both the region and the Government.

His findings, largely based around the need for stronger leadership in the region, will be now be passed on the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.

In his report Lord Adonis calls for:

Government and councils to pool resources for a £500m, 10-year development pot to invest in the A19 and the A1 Western Bypass among other transport concerns;

Increased efforts from Government and North East to create direct regular flights from Newcastle to the United States;

Schools across the region to be set improvement targets;

The creation of a combined council for transport, skills and some regeneration work;

Work on creating a regional bank as part of a new focus on finding funds for businesses.

And in a sign of how the region must stop its in-fighting, Lord Adonis will today tell politicians and business leaders gathered in Sunderland that “the big issue is what I call ‘leadership with a plan’, without which nothing ever gets done.”

He is expected to say: “We have excellent business, political and voluntary sector leaders in the North East, many of them here today, but we need the sum to be more than the parts. For that to happen we need stronger institutions and a bold manifesto for change.”

His review came after Paul Woolston, chair of the Government-backed local enterprise partnership, commissioned the peer to set out exactly what is needed to make the North East succeed.

The report has been welcomed by Government ministers, including Financial Secretary to the Treasury Greg Clark, the man who has helped push through a multi-million pound funding deal for Newcastle.

Mr Clark said: “This report lays out clearly the potential of the area to achieve more. In particular the proposed Combined Authority would massively strengthen the force wielded by the area as it competes nationally and internationally for good jobs.

“The Government has said that we will devolve resources and responsibility to places that can demonstrate credible and compelling economic leadership. This report shows how the North East can do that.

“It is an excellent basis for me to negotiate a Local Growth Deal in which the Government, local businesses and civic leaders regardless of politics work together to make the North East attract and grow jobs and prosperity.”

Many of the recommendations build on Lord Heseltine’s No Stone Unturned review, looking at how to boost regional economic performance. He called for combined authorities to be handed control over large sections of Government funding.

Lord Heseltine said: “This report reflects the same hunger for local people to lead the regeneration of their economies that Sir Terry Leahy and I found on Merseyside.

“The Government now has a unique opportunity to unleash this energy across the 39 local enterprise partnerships that make up the English economy. As the Prime Minister has said, ‘we are all in this together’”.

For Lord Adonis, transport concerns feature heavily in his report, despite claims from the partnership’s chief executive that the region does not have a travel to work problem.

Lord Adonis will today tell business leaders: “The rail journey time from Newcastle, Berwick, Durham and Darlington to London is now slower than it was after electrification of the East Coast Main Line 20 years ago, and far slower and less frequent than from Manchester to London.

“While the A1 western bypass, and the A19, two crucial trade and work corridors of the region, still have dreadful bottlenecks

“And four years after the completion of the M6 from Carlisle to Scotland, the A1 is not dualled north.”

EDUCATION - Schools asked to rise to a new challenge on results

TEACHERS should be handed challenging improvement targets, the  Adonis Review has said.

Several business organisations told Lord Adonis’s team that the standard of education in the North East was not high enough.

Across the region around 28% of secondary schools are rated as being in the bottom quarter of national league table, with 25% of all primary schools performing equally as badly.

Head teachers will be told that needs to change, to 15% and 10% respectively, as well as increasing the number making it to the top quarter of national league tables.

The report calls for councils and other groups to establish a “North East Schools Challenge to accelerate the improvement of North East primary and secondary schools.”

Government will also be asked to support the North East Schools Challenge, based on the successful London Challenge, to support local partners to achieve a step change in both primary and secondary schools.

Lord Adonis also calls for the North East to follow the lead of other regions and establish a University Technical College.

The review recommends that each of the four universities in the region works with local employers to establish a series of UTCs as soon as possible.

The review also calls for the region to double the number of Youth Apprenticeships over the next four years, from 6,500 to 13,000 with an initial emphasis on doubling Level 3 apprentices from 2,000 to 4,000 and engineering and other skills linked to key growth sectors.

Improving the standard of skills training will be seen as an “urgent priority” for the to-be-formed Combined Authority.

The review calls on the region to have a minimum of two governors per school who are active in the business community.

TRANSPORT - £500m fund for roads targeted

A TRANSPORT North East body should be created tasked with spending £500m on road improvements.

Lord Adonis’s review calls for the creation of a new body to pool Government and council cash and spend it on regional priorities over the next 10 years.

The body will be tasked with building on Government plans to improve the A1 Western Bypass from the Lobley Hill link road scheme at the A1/A692/A189 junction in Gateshead.

It is recommended, the review says, that this should be just the start of a rolling programme for additional capacity along the whole length of the bypass, with the objective of Dual 3 lanes along as much of the route as possible, as soon as possible.

The Government is also committed to funding improvements to the A19/A1058 Coast Road (Silverlink) junction improvement. Lord Adonis has said the transport body should fund work to improve other A19 junctions.

He adds that the business case for improvements to the A1 between Morpeth and Alnwick/Berwick/Scotland should also be updated, and the most appropriate improvements funded nationally as befits a strategic route of national importance.

Lord Adonis also says the transport board must work on the long term aim of improving Metro connections to Washington, Blyth and Ashington.

On flights his review says: “The recent new link to the fast-developing hub at Dubai has been a great success; the top priority now is a commercial agreement to pump-prime a new direct flight to a major North American air hub.”

The immediate priority for the region, Lord Adonis said, should be to set up “a schemes pipeline development fund”  to prepare shovel-ready schemes  to be started at short notice.

BUSINESS - Finance proves key theme

FINANCING the North East is a theme running through the Adonis review.

A proposed British Business Bank or a Regional Business Bank is one of the aims of the North East Finance and Investment Board which the local enterprise partnership will establish to help business access finance more easily.

It will also create a mechanism to help smaller, fast growing firms access the large chunks of funds they need to move forwards.

North East Access to Finance II should be created to provide a range of new funds building on the experience to date and understanding of demand, including finance for social enterprises.

The partnership will establish a North East Investment and Finance Board to work with regional and national agencies to oversee the Business Plan.

What happens now

THE deputy prime minister will now be tasked with ensuring the report is acted on.

Nick Clegg, pictured, who backed the initial need for a review, has said the Government is already working for the region.

He said: “This is exactly the proactive thinking local areas should be conducting and we thank Lord Adonis for his work which will form part of an ongoing discussion with the North East on their local economic growth.

“Less than a year ago we released over £90m to Newcastle and Gateshead to initiate an infrastructure programme in four key sites and enable Newcastle and Gateshead long-term retention of business rate income.

“This will help to lever in a billion pounds of private sector investment into the area and create thousands of new jobs.

“We are also in discussions with Sunderland and the North East local enterprise partnership and the Tees Valley as we take forward the second wave of City Deals and we look forward to addressing the issues raised in this report through these city deals to unleash jobs and growth across the region.”

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