NORTH East business leaders have backed a call for the Government to invest more money in boosting economic growth in the region.
Former President of the Board of Trade Lord Michael Heseltine said the Government should allocate up to £250,000 of new public funding to local enterprise partnerships (LEPs), with partnerships bidding for funds for a minimum of five years.
Paul Woolston, chairman of the North East LEP, was in Birmingham to hear Lord Heseltine – nicknamed Tarzan by the media – unveil his report.
“Bringing the levers of growth closer to those who understand the differences in local labour markets and local economies must make sense and lead to better value for money,” he said.
“Lord Heseltine’s report identifies the broad areas where the public sector should be getting involved.
“More importantly, he also provides some very specific recommendations for further decentralisation of responsibility and power to ensure each economic area makes the most of its potential to grow. “We await the Government’s response with keen interest.”
North East Chamber of Commerce chief executive James Ramsbotham said: “Lord Heseltine is spot on to say the UK a relentless focus on competitiveness, and that real competitiveness requires all parts of the country to fulfil their potential.
“We firmly believe the North East economy is a huge asset that could and should be developed further.
“That requires national policies that take better account of regional differences and more local control of our own destiny.
“It would be a huge missed opportunity if the response to this important report is to get mired in a lengthy debate over reorganising institutions.”
He added: “We need to quickly get on with tackling the issues of infrastructure development, better procurement, swifter planning and growing exports which Lord Heseltine rightly identifies.”
South Tyneside Council leader and LEP board member, Iain Malcolm, visited Nissan with Lord Andrew Adonis on Wednesday.
He said: “The LEP is ready and able to play an even greater role in promoting the region’s future, and Lord Heseltine is providing an opportunity for Government to reconsider some of the nationalisation of policy.”