Sunderland may still benefit from enterprise zone plans revealed in the Budget

George Osborne

George Osborne

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CHANCELLOR George Osborne jumped the gun when he appeared to exclude Sunderland from plans for a new North East Urban Enterprise Zone in his Budget speech, the Echo has learned.

The Chancellor unveiled plans for 21 of the new zones across the country – including one on Tyneside.

But the Echo understands no decision has yet been taken on what part of the region the new scheme will actually cover.

Treasury information refers only to a zone “located in the North East, led by the North Eastern LEP”.

The LEP – Local Enterprise Partnership – is the successor body to regional development agency One North East and includes all the North East councils, from Northumberland down to County Durham, with the exception of Tees Valley.

And while the LEP will be responsible for deciding what form the new enterprise zone actually takes – and where it will be – that final decision is apparently still some way off.

Speaking to the Echo just hours after the Chancellor’s speech yesterday, Energy Secretary Chris Huhne said the full details of the enterprise zones were still being thrashed out.

He said: “This is new. The treasury and the Department of Business will be taking advice from Local Enterprise Partnerships and others about where the best place to be actually is.”

Even if Sunderland was not part of the enterprise zone, it was still likely to benefit from the extra investment in the region it would attract:

“Enterprise zones can help create a lot of jobs and a lot of businesses,” said Mr Huhne.

“Even if it is not absolutely on your doorstep, the reality is that it does create jobs for the area and also in the supply chain.

“The impact of Nissan in Sunderland, for instance, is not just in the number employed in the plant itself but also in the number of people employed in the plants supplying Nissan in Sunderland.”