Bank is ‘key’ to economy

Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson.

Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson.

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MAKING Wearside a green industry boom-town would help save the UK economy, city leaders have told Westminster.

Wearside’s leaders hosted a roundtable discussion in London yesterday, on how moving green investment to the North East is the only way to rebalance the economy.

It came as Sunderland battles to become the host city of the new Green Investment Bank, which will be capitalised with £3billion and will start to invest in green businesses from April 2012.

Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson used yesterday’s meeting, hosted by Sunderland MP Julie Elliott at Portcullis House, to call for recognition of the value that the North East can play in creating a sustainable economy recovery in the UK.

He said: “Moving Green Investment to the North East is the only way to rebalance the UK economy.

“We have abundant natural resources off our coastline that can help to deliver energy security and a new wave of UK-based technology and manufacturing.

“As part of our Green Investment Bank submission, we are calling on the Government to ‘look North East’ and work with Sunderland and other authorities in the region to deliver new sustainable enterprise, skills and a knowledge economy that will be the envy of the world.”

Sunderland is competing with 31 other locations to host the Green Investment Bank, after submitting a bid to the Department for Innovation and Skills last month.

Conservative councillor Alan Wright, who speaks on development issues for his party in Sunderland, also attended yesterday’s discussion.

He said: “The bid has cross-party support, plus a number of key business advocates that will help grow the Bank’s investment profile.”

He added: “We are well-placed to work with the bank and industry partners to create the kind of sustainable recovery that our country needs by drawing on the knowledge and skills of the North East people, and sharing best practice with other parts of the UK.”

Sunderland City Council chief executive Dave Smith stressed how well the city’s private and public sectors work together.

He said Wearside had a reputation for creating the right environment for businesses to succeed, including a workforce which works hard and innovates well, and the transport and digital infrastructures were the envy of other cities.

Bernard Hughes, chief executive of UK Regeneration, said there would be important symbolism in placing the Green Bank in Sunderland.

“It would bring together finance and manufacturing in an important symbolic way.

“It would be a real statement that the bank is there to help and encourage green manufacturing.”

He also said that Sunderland would make the green bank work.

“It needs to be placed somewhere that will be easy, somewhere where the people can make it work – and Sunderland is like that, as a city is can make things happen.”

John Craggs, deputy chief executive at Gentoo, said Sunderland has impressed many visitors with its pragmatic approach and can-do attitude.

“We get a lot of visits from senior people who’ve never been to the city, and they’re invariably impressed by what we have.

“Gentoo and the city have an innovative and pragmatic approach that works.”

Mr Craggs said Gentoo currently had 230 people working on green issues for the company.

The aim of the Westminster discussion was identify three ways in which the public and private sector can work with central and local government to create a sustainable economic recovery.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills is expected to make its decision on the host location for the Green Investment Bank later this month.

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