Row as North East Tories urge Government to provide Sunderland film studios funding which 'better reflects the business case'

Conservatives want a 'bespoke package of support' for studio
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Local Conservatives have an alternative view on how the Crown Works studios should be funded.Local Conservatives have an alternative view on how the Crown Works studios should be funded.
Local Conservatives have an alternative view on how the Crown Works studios should be funded.

North East Conservative politicians have written to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to suggest he offers a package "which better reflects the business case" to support the proposed Crown Works studios in Sunderland.

Leader of Sunderland Conservatives, Cllr Antony Mullen and the party's North East mayoral candidate, Guy Renner-Thompson, have jointly written the letter.

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At the foot of it are the names of 11 of the 13 Conservatives on Sunderland City Council. Missing are those of Cllrs Michael Dixon and Dominic McDonough.

FulwellCain, the joint venture behind the plans, says the Pallion studios would create 8,500 new jobs and an annual £334million for the North East economy. Private backing of £450million has already been secured.

However, FulwellCain says the Government needs to provide up to £20million each year for 10 years for the plans to become reality. They have effectively set Mr Hunt his March 6 budget as a deadline to announce his support.

Cllr Mullen has said: "It is simply unreasonable to say that the Government should give a handout to private business."

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Mr Renner-Thompson has said he "would leverage" some of the £48million at his disposal each year if he is elected.

Now, their letter to the Treasury says: "Dear Jeremy. The Conservatives in Sunderland support the development of the new Crown Works Studios development proposed for the city.

"We believe that this development would be transformative in terms of the city’s economy, job creation and its international reputation. We are fully behind it in principle.

"Rather than join the calls for £200million, we – as Conservative councillors in Sunderland and Conservative candidate for North East Mayor – are writing to ask you to provide a bespoke package of support, designed by you, which better reflects the business case for this project and which Guy Renner Thompson, if elected Mayor, is committed to supporting.

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"Sunderland has benefited enormously from the millions of pounds of Levelling Up and other Government investment – including for our new railway station, Culture House and Riverside development – and we hope that you will develop a unique package for the Crown Works Studios project that is deliverable and realistic."

Cllr Mullen told the Echo: "We feel that freeing up the Chancellor to design a package of support based on his assessment of the business case is the best way to proceed - and we are confident that he will listen to our request."

But Labour's mayoral candidate Kim McGuinness has condemned the letter.

She said: “This is an act of economic sabotage against the North East.

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"Almost our entire region is united behind this film studio bid, which has millions of pounds of private sector investment lined up.

“It is absurd in the extreme for the Tory mayoral candidate to write to the Chancellor urging him NOT to put £200m into Sunderland.

“The funding bid put to government was developed by the studio leaders themselves - surely they know best what is needed for this project to succeed? That’s why our region, our businesses and our local newspapers, united behind this.

“I wrote to the Chancellor urging him to back this project - and as mayor I’ll be giving Sunderland’s film studios my full support.”

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