NORTH East business leaders last night called on Chancellor George Osborne to use his Autumn Statement to deliver a “level playing field” and allow firms to achieve their growth potential.
The North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) said the region had moved on from its “begging bowl mentality”, but warned that Osborne must give the region the tools to spearhead the economic recovery.
The group, which has more than 4,000 members, has written to the Chancellor setting out its stall ahead of next week’s mini Budget statement.
The submission from NECC chief executive James Ramsbotham urges the Government to back regional strengths in manufacturing and exports by reforming restrictive Air Passenger Duty and current levels of fuel duty.
It also called for incentives to boost employment and changes to Regional Growth Fund criteria so that small and medium-sized firms can access funding.
Ramsbotham said: “The North East is not a problem for the rest of the UK to solve: we are an untapped resource that could be delivering so much more for the UK economy, as our growth levels indicate.
“The region’s continued excellent performance in opening up overseas markets contributes enormously to UK Plc but, by playing to strengths in this field and manufacturing, and utilising regional capacity for further business development, the North East could be contributing so much more.
“The Government must focus on the North East if it is to rebalance the UK economy: from financial services to manufacturing; from imports to exports; and from the South East to the North. While the North East is already delivering on these agendas, it has the potential to perform even more strongly.
“The Autumn Statement must build on the region’s strengths, while focusing on specific measures to address the challenges of stimulating employment and investment by the region’s private sector.”
He said the region’s private sector businesses are meeting the challenges posed by the huge cuts to the public sector by recruiting more staff and exporting more goods.
“The region has moved away from the perceived ‘begging bowl’ approach, but if we are to achieve our true potential then we require at least parity with our neighbours and the support from Central Government to help us help the UK,” said Ramsbotham.
Meanwhile, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) called for Osborne to create a Small Business Bank, which would create greater competition in the banking sector and ease access to finance.
It believes this could be a stepping stone to the establishment of a Small Business Administration, similar to the organisation that has been running in the US since 1953 to focus on the needs of small firms and help the sector to grow.
Ted Salmon, FSB regional chairman, said: “Small business policymaking has been subject to a range of confusing patchwork approaches that have often had minimal impact on the ground. We want to see a clear plan of action from the Chancellor which he can take forward to Budget 2013, which will detail the long-term support small firms in the North East need.
“Key to this is going to be the small business bank and eventually how it can become the Small Business Administration supporting small businesses over the long-term.”