Funding boost welcome but still not enough. say Wearside MPs

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The Government announced yesterday which businesses had been successful in bidding for a share of £450million in the first round of its Regional Growth Fund (RGF).

Among the Wearside winners are Durham County Cricket Club Holdings Ltd, which plans a new conference facility to include a 150 bed hotel, 2,000-seat theatre and hospitality skills academy next to Chester-le-Street’s Riverside ground.

Rainton Bridge-based Connor Solutions Ltd, picked up cash to build a new 20,000 sq ft manufacturing plant on undeveloped industrial land and Sunderland’s Nissan plant, which is planning ‘significant new investments’ that could create up to 1,000 new jobs.

Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson’s constituency covers Rainton Bridge.

She said: “This is good news for the companies concerned and their employees.

“However, the number of bidders to the fund far outweighs the money available and there were always bound to be a lot of losers.

“The Government has cut funding for the regions by two-thirds. Setting up the Regional Growth Fund does not fill the gap left by One NorthEast.”

Sharon Hodgson is MP for Washington and Sunderland West, which covers the Nissan plant.

“Investment in Sunderland should always be welcomed,” she said.

“Nissan means a great deal to our city, so I am very pleased to hear that they have got this funding, and I look forward to seeing how they plan to use it to create jobs for my constituents.

“However, this announcement shouldn’t mask the fact that investment in driving innovation, job creation and economic growth in the regions has been slashed – £400million has been awarded across the country this year, compared to £1.4billion last year.

“If this Tory-led Government was serious about inspiring growth in the North East, regional development funding would be the last thing they slashed.”

North East Lib Dem Euro-MP Fiona Hall was more positive. “Today’s news is further confirmation of the North East as the manufacturing capital of the UK,” she said.

“This is the place for companies to come and build things, in traditional industries like steel or in the green technologies of tomorrow like electric cars. Despite the difficult financial situation the country is in, the Government is continuing to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to the North East.

“With good news on Hitachi, SSI and now this £50 million of additional funding, the private sector jobs that will be vital for our recovery are being created and protected.

“The job now is to ensure the second round of bids is as positive for the region as the first.

“There are many projects that could be of huge benefit to the North East and I hope the success stories will spur them on to submit winning bids in the next round.”