ANGRY politicians have hit out after Sunderland’s low carbon enterprise zone was snubbed for a slice of £100million Government cash.
The city’s MPs have criticised the decision which means Wearside would not receive any funding in the latest round of regional development spending.
They accused the Government of widening the North-South divide, arguing the decision to allocate the cash was a political rather than economic one.
But the Government’s local growth minister, Kris Hopkins, insisted all bids were judged fairly.
The North East’s Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) last year made a bid for a share of the money for key infrastructure projects, which it was hoped could create hundreds of jobs.
The North East enterprise zone covers sites along the A19 designated to attract businesses, and has already brought Vantec and Washington Business Centre to the city.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles revealed 12 shortlisted Enterprise Zones that would receive the cash, creating up to 3,000 jobs. The North East was not among them.
Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson said: “Yet again we see money which is supposed to provide much-needed help for our local economies channelled to affluent areas.
“Whether it’s cash for public services or funding to create jobs and growth, this Government seems determined to widen the North-South divide, and continue to provide a poor deal for Sunderland.”
Enterprise zones are designated districts which offer discounted business rates, can retain increases in their business rates, and have additional planning powers.
The North East Enterprise Zone sites has already created 454 jobs and several hundred construction jobs, 15.8 hectares of land have been developed, while £59.3million of public sector funding and £56million private sector funding has been secured.
Julie Elliott, MP for Sunderland Central, said: “This is an alarming decision. I don’t believe that the North East is getting its fair share of the Regional Growth Fund.
“Clearly, the need is there. Why are we losing out? We have to ask if these are political, rather than economic decisions.”
Paul Woolston, chairman of the North East LEP said: “Although we’re disappointed not to have received support in this instance to accelerate development, the North East Enterprise Zone is already recognised as one of the best performing in the country.
“We are determined to deliver further investment and occupiers to the 10 enterprise zone sites across the North East LEP area.
“The £6.6million Washington Business Centre is nearing completion, ideally placed to house dozens of the next generation of SME businesses serving the automotive industry.”
Kris Hopkins said: “The £100million fund was allocated through an open competition and all bids were judged on their merits and for value for money.
“The funding was split with £41million for the North, £17million for the Midlands and £43million for the South.”