‘Labour gave more to the North East’ – Sunderland council leader ‘cautious’ over £111.7million funding

Coun Paul Watson.
Coun Paul Watson.
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COUNCIL bosses have said the announcement of a £289million money pot to boost business on Wearside should be treated with caution.

The Government cash will be awarded to the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) as part of the historic Growth Deal, and will be used to help new business to grow and create thousands of jobs.

A total of £111.7million has been confirmed in the first year, and the Government has provided an indicative award of a further £177.6million of funding from 2016/17 onwards.

However, Sunderland City Council leader, Paul Watson, said that while any investment in the region is to be welcomed, he had to treat the money promised after 2016 with caution.

“Obviously it’s good news,” Coun Watson told the Echo. “But clearly the money is not anything like the Labour Party used to bring to the North East. Will more be invested in the presence of economic progress?”

Part of the deal is an innovation programme which features a package of projects to support technological advances, including the Sunderland Enterprise and Innovation Hub, which will provide the first “Fab Lab” in the North East, providing spaces for new businesses in creative and science-based industries.

The projects, which start in 2015/16, will help to create up to 4,000 jobs, and generate about £90million in public and private investment.

“We have the Fab Lab in Sunderland on the list and other projects, so we are doing well as a city,” Coun Watson added.

“But it is a worry the money this Government is committing after 2016. Can we be sure it will be devolved here? We are happy, obviously, but unfortunately, we have to be cautious.”

Transport links are also expected to be improved as part of the deal, with cash earmarked for improvements to junctions on the A1 and A19 roads from 2016 onwards.