£200m a year North East growth plan to target schools, business and transport

North East local enterprise partnership sets out return to planning strategies with Strategic Economic Plan

Schools in the North East could be given £30m to improve results as part of a new masterplan to improve the North East economy.

The money for a North East Schools Challenge – a version of a similar scheme that pushed up children’s achievement in London – is part of a £200m-a-year set of proposals put together by business and political leaders in the region.

The North East local enterprise partnership is to submit to Government next month a Strategic Economic Plan which will also include:

A contribution towards a £100m Nissan business park;

Prioritise rail investment in the Leamside Line and the reinstatement of the Ashington-Blyth-Tyne line;

Turn the entire A1 Western Bypass into a three-lane highway;

Improve all A19 roundabouts through the North East;

More than £160m in business loan programmes.

The plan follows a report by former Cabinet Minister Lord Adonis which recommended a number of measures to kickstart the economy in the North East.

Last week the region saw unemployment rise while it fell everywhere else in the country, prompting concerns that the recovery happening in the South is not translating to the North.

Pulling together all the different strands is Ed Twiddy, the former Treasury man now working as LEP chief executive.

He said the scheme differs from the former regional planning documents in that it is more an agreement between businesses and locally elected leaders on where they want to see money spent.

LEP chairman Ed Twiddy said: “This is not just members of the board saying: ‘This is it, you will spend it like this’. We have information from a very wide partnership.

“And most importantly, we are looking at this in the context of the Government’s devolution plans. It not a case of few hundred civil servants saying what has to happen.”

The draft strategic economic plan, which will govern how major funding decisions are made for years to come, follows on from a review of the region by former cabinet minister Lord Adonis.

Among the plan’s key features is money for skills and education. Increasing school grades, raising the number of people studying at higher education and getting more graduates to set up businesses in the region will take up huge resources, but Mr Twiddy said, the investment would be returned in increased employment.

Plans for a North East Schools Challenge were first recommended by Lord Adonis, based on a London scheme in which £80m was spent turning around results in inner-city schools.

The Government’s child poverty adviser Alan Milburn has also called for a North East Challenge scheme, but ministers previously said funding had gone and it could only go ahead if the North East funds it itself.

The plan will have to be approved in two strands, with the European Commission agreeing the use of £500m of EU cash later this year and the Government backing the use of its £2bn growth pot – in which former Newcastle City Council leader Lord Shipley has a key role – for use by 2015.

There will be a short period of consultation both within the region and between the LEP and the Government before the final plan is submitted next month.

Lord Adonis, who chaired the North East Independent Economic Review, said: “The North East Strategic Economic Plan provides a fantastic opportunity for the North East economy to truly realise its potential.

“The first task for the North East is to agree this draft plan, and once approved, implement it.

“There is huge capacity for the region’s future success, with will, leadership and a clear plan for action. The plan will help the North East LEP area raise its performance and drive growth.”

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