The man tasked with bringing in the foreign cash needed to reduce North East unemployment has said the region needs to get its act together.
Michael Boyd, head of the global inward investment team within UK Trade and Investment, has said the reason for a failure to bring in enough big name firms to the region is a lack of leadership in the North East.
His comments again raise concerns that political in-fighting across the North East is holding back job creation.
In the North East last night job creation leaders hit back at the quango director, pointing out that he does not even set his team a target for companies coming into the region.
UKTI had to defend itself after statistics showed just 2.8% of its efforts came to the North East in the last financial year, prompting new concerns that London-based civil servants are not up to the job of selling the region.
But in an unexpected move Mr Boyd has laid the blame at the feet of those tasked with creating jobs in the North East, even though they have no international role.
The North East Local Enterprise Partnership is one of many set up by Government to spend money making it easier for firms to grow. Business and council leaders on the board oversee the tax breaks in the enterprise zone and several millions of pounds worth of cash for road works and buildings.
Mr Boyd told The Journal: “UKTI is working with nearly 6,000 companies that are actively seeking to invest in the UK. Of these nearly 300 are considering investing in the North East Local Enterprise Partnership area or Tees Valley areas.
“At present the uncertainties around the local enterprise partnership’s delivery structures in the area seem to be limiting the effectiveness and impact of local partners in telling a clear story to individual investors.
“For this reason the number of actual investments converted is lower than we would hope. UKTI is committed to working with key stakeholders in the North East to help them rectify this situation and is visiting with the partnership this week.”
But the partnership, whose chief executive is a former Treasury deputy director, said UKTI is over looking its own role.
In a statement the partnership said it recognised that despite many successes more could be done to support UKTI.
It added: “However, since the new UKTI inward investment contracts were let there are neither regional targets nor commitments for inward investment. These statistics demonstrate that the current offer and contract is unable to meet the widely-shared goal of spatial and sectoral rebalancing.
“For the North East to simultaneously have the highest levels of export per head but also low levels of inward investment suggest that the openness and competitiveness of the North East is being under-used in the era of centrally-run inward investment programmes.
“We look forward to a revised inward investment delivery model that includes targets for regional investment rather than a global figure for the UK that can be met with no consideration to the long term consequences of spatial and sectoral concentration.”
Last night North East Chamber of Commerce chief executive, James Ramsbotham, backed the partnership.
He said: “Clearly the Government’s UK First approach to inward investment does not fit with its aim to rebalance the economy nor does it take advantage of the wealth of land and utility assets, skilled workforce and international links that should mark out our region as fertile land for inward investment.
This is not about a fairer approach to the regions; it’s about using all the assets at the UK’s disposal to maximise the offer that we present to potential foreign investors.
However, there is a considerable onus on the region to articulate the many benefits of relocating to the North East to the widest possible international audience and it is up to all agencies involved in inward investment to present a joined-up approach to not only attract new business, but make sure they receive the best possible service when they arrive here and it is clear there is still some work to do in this respect.”