New tourism chair questions UKTI's North East success

The soon-to-be chair of Newcastle Gateshead Initiative sees improving the work of UKTI as one of his key aims

Paul Callaghan, chairman of the NGI
Paul Callaghan, new chairman of the NGI

The Government body tasked with bringing international firms to the North East could be doing more for the region, the new man tasked with creating jobs has claimed.

Paul Callaghan has been unveiled as the soon-to-be chair of tourism and inward investment body the Newcastle Gateshead Initiative.

The former chairman of regional development agency One North East will head up an organisation trying to boost tourism and encourage new firms to locate here.

That second role is shared with jobs quango UK Trade and Investment, who, the Government promised, would fill the gap left by the development agency which helped bring the likes of electric vehicle production to Sunderland’s Nissan factory.

But questions have been raised over UKTI’s success rate, with few big name firms coming to the region amid growing concern that success for the quango is not measured on a regional basis.

The result, critics say, is that there is little incentive for civil servants to back the region.

Mr Callaghan has said improving the work of UKTI is one of his key aims in his new role.

He told The Journal: “This Government has taken a more hands off approach than previous Governments, which is fine but that also means less money coming from central Government. I want the likes of UKTI to recognise the North East as a great place to bring overseas investment to.

“When we had regional teams doing inward investment they understood the patch, the strengths, and we need that again, because it is not clear if we have it to the same level now.

“UKTI, while it does a good job nationally, needs to have more focus on the North East, and we will have to work with them more closely to achieve that.”

Last night the North East Chamber of Commerce said there was more to be done by many organisations to help bring jobs and investment to the region.

The Chamber’s policy adviser, Helen Hayes, said: “The abolition of regional development agencies did result in the loss of the specialised foreign direct investment teams for the whole of the region, but we now have the opportunity to harness private sector involvement across the spectrum of inward investment activities.

“To ensure that the real opportunity offered by inward investment is fully realised within the North East provision must be made by public sector organisations for more private sector involvement and more businesses to come to the table and play their part.

“The regional UKTI team do a great job, but I’m certain that there are members of the North East business community who could add a great deal to our inward investment offer.”

The Newcastle Gateshead Initiative, which is funded by Gateshead Council, Newcastle City Council and 170 private sector partners from across the region, was founded 12 years ago.

An inward investment team is the most recent addition to the organisation, having been tasked by both councils with work to attract new business, investment and jobs to Newcastle Gateshead. Eight new investments have been secured, with 152 jobs created, and there are 59 projects in the pipeline.

Mick Henry, leader of Gateshead Council, welcomed the appointment. He said: “Paul brings with him a wealth of experience and I’m sure he’ll play an important role in helping to further cement NewcastleGateshead Initiative’s reputation as a significant economic driver for the area.”

UKTI did not comment.

 
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