Ed Balls on Labour's vision for the North East economy

The Shadow Chancellor writes exclusively for The Journal ahead of a visit to the region

Rui Vieira/PA Wire Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls

The North East has not only a proud manufacturing history but a proud manufacturing present.

Nissan, in Sunderland, is Europe’s most productive car manufacturing plant, helped in part by the last Labour government who took bold measures to help the UK’s automotive industry through the global economic downturn.

Hitachi Rail is building a new £82million train building plant in County Durham, thanks to the great work done by Labour-led Durham County council in building relationships with business.

And with this level of investment in the region, I firmly believe the North East has a proud manufacturing future too.

The Nissan Qashqai in production in Sunderland
The Nissan Qashqai in production in Sunderland

But what do these examples have in common? A Labour Government which knew that access to open global markets was vital for modern manufacturers. And a local authority working hand in hand with business and One North East, the regional development agency, building relationships to bring investment and success to their area.

And open markets and partnerships to back new investment are vital to the future too. I want to make sure the North East can continue to unlock the potential, experience and dynamism of businesses of all sizes; working families; and the next generation who want to get on.

That is why the next Labour government will keep Britain in reformed Europe and work with business, LEPS and local government to get skills and infrastructure modern manufactures need. Because Labour’s plan is not about standing aside and waiting for wealth to trickle down from a few at the top to everyone else.

So we will invest. In science, infrastructure, skills, which all companies, from Hitachi in County Durham, to SSI on Teesside rely on.

We will back the creativity of your entrepreneurs by founding a British Investment bank. We’ll support the SME’s that want to expand by reforming the banking sector so they can get funding.

Benjamin Mawby, left and Darren Cumner of Hitachi at the Newton Aycliffe complex
Benjamin Mawby, left and Darren Cumner of Hitachi at the Newton Aycliffe complex

We will invest in the knowledge your councils have about their areas by devolving power and money to them. And in the region’s young people, by guaranteeing an apprenticeship to all those who get the grades.

Our plan is not just about the largest companies – with a Labour Government, small business will be first in line for tax cuts, starting with a cut in business rates. Over 70,000 businesses across the region will benefit from this promise. That’s over 70,000 businesses able to use that money to expand, invest, and employ more local people. Our plan means the tax burden on small businesses will be lower than under this Conservative-led government.

We will combine a modern industrial strategy with action so that businesses and working families succeeding together. We will not leave families to sink or swim. When it works for people, it works for Britain.

So we’ll make work pay, with a higher minimum wage, benefiting over 75 thousand people across Newcastle upon Tyne, Sunderland, Durham and Middlesbrough. We’ll reintroduce the 10p tax rate, meaning nearly one million people across the North East keep more of the money they earn. We’ll give tax rebates businesses who choose to pay the living wage in the first year of the parliament. And we’ll enable eight thousand parents across the region to take on more hours at work by expanding free childcare.

Our plan for growth and higher productivity is about delivering more profits, long-term investment, good jobs and living standards.

Greggs on Neville Street, Newcastle City Centre
Greggs on Neville Street, Newcastle City Centre

But it is also about dealing with the deficit and tackling national debt in a fair and balanced way.

This Government has failed on both counts. Their answer? To take the UK back to levels of public spending as a share of national income not seen since the 1930s.

Labour will take a different approach. Our economic plan will cut the deficit every year while securing the future of our National Health Service. Every pledge will be fully funded and paid. Not a single Labour commitment will be paid for by additional borrowing. All of our sums will add up.

And just as every successful business, like Sage or Greggs the Bakers, looks at every pound they spend to see how they can root our waste, we are doing the same with our Zero-Based Review of every pound government spends.

This will involve difficult decisions. We will cap child benefit and take away the winter allowance from the 5% of richest pensioners. And we will reverse this government’s big tax cut for people earning over £150,000.

We will make different choices, with fairness at the centre of our plan.

Our plan is pro-business but not business as usual. Supporting wealth creation but making sure everyone pays their fair share. A Labour Government will act to strengthen growth ‎ across the North East, to build on your success stories, and to make sure everyone feels the benefits of it; a better plan for the North East’s prosperity.

  • Ed Balls MP is Shadow Chancellor

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