Ministers have announced a £54m investment package for jobs and economic growth in the North East, including cash for new businesses - and to clean up the Tyne.
Funding of £40.6m will go to the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) as part of the latest “growth deal”, championed by Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister.
Projects to receive funding include a new National Centre for Healthcare Photonics, which study the way lightwaves can be used in medical treatment and diagnostic techniques.
Funding will also support attempts to end and reverse on-going contamination of the river Tyne - to allow additional development on the riverside.
There will be funding for Sunderland Central Business District, a business district near the city centre.
Meanwhile facilities at Northumberland College will be upgraded to improve skills levels and support economic growth in key sectors such as advanced manufacturing, renewables and ICT.
In addition, the Government is committed in principle to support the development of Dun Cow Quay in Blyth and the regeneration of South Shields Town Centre through discounted Public Works Loan Board borrowing.
These projects will provide 25,000 square feet of new commercial workspace in Blyth and a high quality bus and metro interchange to improve the public transport connectivity of South Shields Town Centre.
Tees Valley Unlimited, the LEP in the Tees Valley area, will receive £13.9 million.
Over the lifetime of the deal, between 2015-2021, the LEP estimates that up to 5000 new jobs could be created or safeguarded and 1500 new homes built.
The funding comes on top of larger “growth deal” packages announced last July.
North East LEP Chair Paul Woolston said: “The North East’s economic plan ‘more and better jobs’ sets an ambitious vision for the North East, to transform the economy and enable more businesses to invest, grow and prosper, delivering more and better jobs for everyone. We are delighted that government is further supporting our proposals with such a significant investment.
“The additional £40.6m added to our £289.3m growth deal endorses our approach providing investment for innovation, skills, business support, and transport, developing our economic assets and supporting inclusive growth.”
However Ministers have continued to come under fire from opposition MPs who warn that attempts to boost the economy of the North East have not resulted in higher living standards for many people.
County Durham MP Helen Goodman, Labour MP for Bishop Auckland, highlighted the findings of a study by academics from the London School of Economics, Manchester and York universities which found the Coalition government’s changes to the tax and benefits system had hit poorest households hardest - and which predicted poverty was set to grow.
Speaking in the House of Commons, she said: “The second independent report in as many weeks shows that proportionately the Government have hit the poorest and those with small children the hardest.”
Questioning Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, she said: “Today, half a million more children are living in absolute poverty than when he walked into the Treasury. Will he tell us why, instead of tackling that, he supported tax cuts for millionaires?”