DEPUTY prime minister Nick Clegg has today backed the creation of a North East commission aimed at turning the region into an economic powerhouse.
A high-level team led by former Labour transport secretary Lord Adonis will spend six months investigating what is needed to turn around the North East economy.
The economic review was authorised by members of the region’s local enterprise partnership, a Government-backed combination of business and council leaders, and will feed back to Mr Clegg early next year.
Lord Adonis’s panel includes Will Hutton, former editor-in-chief of the Observer, Heidi Mottram, chief executive of Northumbrian Water, and the Right Rev Justin Welby, the Bishop of Durham.
As part of its work the independent commission will hold a public debate on their findings later this year, with an opportunity to call regional experts as witnesses. The team will eventually set out how best to target scarce Government resources, listing priorities for transport investment, for example, as well as what is needed to build on the region’s strong exporting credentials.
Crucially, the local enterprise partnership has already secured backing from the deputy prime minister.
Mr Clegg said: “There is enormous potential for growth in the North East. The region has a proud history of manufacturing and sectors like this are an important part of the North East’s economic future too.
“For too long the UK economy has been focused on the City of London, ignoring the potential powerhouses of North East cities. This region is a place where business can thrive, where things are built and made. I want to see much more of this.
“The local enterprise partnership’s independent economic review will challenge existing assumptions and approaches. It’s not enough just to get us back to where we were.
“There can be no forgotten areas of Britain. We need to re-balance the economy by fostering growth across the region and across a range of industries.”
The review will look to the next 18 years of economic activity in the North East, recommending what interventions need to be put in place over the next five years to encourage growth.
Iain Malcolm, leader of South Tyneside Council and a member of the enterprise partnership, said the level of experience on the commission showed how serious the issue was being taken.
He added: “We have here some extremely valuable experience that now more than ever will be needed as we look to get the best out of diminishing central government resources.”
Lord Shipley, the former leader of Newcastle Council who now advises the Government on city regeneration, said: “I hope this provides a blueprint for the partnership’s priorities for the next 18 years. We have a wealth of experience and I hope they now concentrate on how the private sector can drive growth in our region, as we are still too dependent upon the public sector for jobs.”
Paul Woolston, partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers and chair of the partnership, said: “It is vital that we grasp how to position ourselves to be more globally competitive, create more jobs, and ensure that all of the people in the North East have an opportunity to contribute to and benefit from economic growth.”