A flagship report on the North East economy has been attacked as “intellectually dishonest” amid claims it failed to address the impact of Government cuts on the region.
Labour MPs from across the region have hit out at Lord Adonis’s review of the North East, saying it was too wide ranging, came up with no ways forward and ignored the impact of funding cuts.
The report set out what Government, councils and business must do to grow the economy and rescue a reliance on the public sector.
But MPs in a parliamentary debate yesterday said Lord Adonis had failed to provide Mr Clegg with an accurate picture of the scale of the challenge facing the region.
While Government MPs such as Hexham’s Guy Opperman praised the report for bringing together the region, Labour refused to offer praise to a review carried out by a former Labour cabinet minister.
Their comments threaten to overshadow a meeting of city leaders and major employers in Newcastle today as they come together to say what they will do as a result of the Adonis recommendations.
The review was commissioned by the North East local enterprise partnership, a Government-backed group of council and business leaders, who will today be expected to address those concerns.
Former regional minister Nick Brown said the report offered just “structures” rather than “practical ways forward”. He added: “Let us remember that the recommendations, which effectively are for extra civil service support, be it central or local government—as I read the report, it is both—come just after the Government have closed the Government office for the region.”
Durham MP Helen Goodman said the report was “intellectually dishonest” for failing to cover the impact of funding cuts, warning that if all the jobs it predicted were found the region would still only be at 2009 employment levels.
Mr Opperman, however, insisted the report provided a basis for the region to growing, telling the Commons that “the North East is not sitting back and accepting the state of things as they are; the North-East is making the case for change.”
He added: “The most important part concerns the development that has taken place over the past year-plus with the local authorities all coming together and forming the combined authority.”
The Conservative MP added that the new combined authority covering the seven councils in the North East should consider electing a mayor to act as a regional leader.
But his support for the report was one of few in the Labour dominated debate. Gateshead’s Ian Mearns won approval when he dismissed Lord Adonis’s efforts as suffering “a missed opportunity to build up the regional economy.”
By far those most scathing criticism came from Durham’s Kevan Jones, who attacked Lord Adonis as never having being elected to any post “apart from when he was milk monitor at school”.
Mr Jones said Labour MPs were not consulted on the report, “that did not surprise me at all coming from Andrew Adonis,” despite Lord Adonis holding a Commons dinner for MPs to go over the review.
He told the House: “This Government have no regional policy at all. The report is fine when suggesting structures, but the fundamental problem is that there is no cash behind them.
“I wish this report well, but I fear that it will raise expectations, without delivering. What business needs now and what young people in my constituency who face a long term of unemployment need now is action. They do want to hear structural arguments and they do not want a glossy report, which might well make the authors feel good and get them a lot of press coverage locally. What we want is action.”