Local Enterprise Partnership wrangle row must end

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THE North East’s political and business leaders must swiftly end the row holding up the region’s bid to create thousands of jobs on Wearside.

That’s the message of city politicians frustrated with the wrangle over the Enterprize Zone bid to bring tax incentives and other hooks to encourage investment.

Five North East councils, including Sunderland and Durham, voted in favour of a low-carbon and advance manufacturing scheme forecast to create more than 10,000 jobs and inflate the economy by millions of pounds.

But the second-choice “urban cores” scheme, backed by Newcastle and Gateshead, would have included the Vaux site and Farringdon Row, and was forecast to create many more jobs in a shorter timescale.

The bid should have been submitted last week, and politicians are calling on the region’s leaders to decide conclusively on the best option for the North East as a whole.

Wearside Tory leader Robert Oliver said: “The news that Sunderland’s bid for an Enterprise Zone is being held up by wrangling between council and business leaders is worrying in the extreme considering the importance of private sector investment in the city.

“Given the concentration of growth in the South East during the past decade, with 10 private sector jobs created there for every one in this region, the success of the bid is essential to the future prosperity of the North East.

“The private sector is better placed to deliver sustainable growth than a reliance on Government spending which has left us more dependent than (communist) East Germany and therefore at the mercy of the largest peacetime deficit.”

Coun Oliver said there was disappointment with the achievements of regeneration agency Sunderland arc and the Enterprise Zone scheme was much-needed to boost Wearside’s fortunes.

“A return to the policies which encouraged the development of Nissan and Doxford International cannot come soon enough,” he said.

“The fear now is, with deadlines looming, that a key part of the local agenda of aspiration and growth in Sunderland arrives too late and this city loses out again, while Tyneside and Teesside forge ahead.”

Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson said she was leaving the decision on the Enterprise Zone bid to the leaders of the North Eastern Local Enterprise Partnership.

But she said she favours the low-carbon option, which features sites off the A19 which fall into her constituency.

She said: “I think there is an opportunity for the North East to become a world leader in low-carbon industries. I don’t think we should just be thinking about hypothetical projections on what might create the most jobs.”

Lib Dem councillor Paul Dixon, whose Millfield ward includes Farringdon Row and the Vaux site, prefers the urban cores option.

He said: “I think that will be of more benefit to Sunderland. The city centre is desperate at the moment. We need something done.

“The Vaux site is ruining the city centre and we need to see development and investment there as soon as possible.”

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