IT’S time for the Chancellor to dust off his battered red briefcase once again as the annual Budget will soon be upon us, writes Mark Stephenson of the North East Chmber of Commerce.  

NECC has like the class swot sent off its annual submission to Mr Osborne with time to spare. With our economy recovering and business confidence rising, we want the Government to empower business to drive forward this upward trend.

North-East companies are spearheading economic growth. Despite cuts across the public sector, January saw our most positive Quarterly Economic Survey in over a decade and national GVA estimates demonstrated we are closing the gap on the rest of the UK.

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To help ensure the momentum is sustained, we have called on the Chancellor to ensure any future spending as well as cuts are distributed evenly throughout the country, not least of all because North-East councils are suffering disproportionately from cuts when compared to many in the more affluent parts of the country.

In our submission we have outlined the policies we believe will help us deliver more for UK Plc.

This will help us build on the solid progress of 2013.  There was a host of positive infrastructure announcements in the last 12 months, but we need them to happen quickly and we have told the Government it must continue with its robust approach to infrastructure investment.

Priorities include upgrading the A1 north of Newcastle, extending HS2 to the North-East and addressing the disproportionate impact of Air Passenger Duty on North-East airports. With our region having such strong export performance in manufacturing and energy sectors, connectivity is of utmost importance.

The region’s jobless figures are also a major concern. Improving regional skills to ensure school leavers can fill the job vacancies we have could help tackle this issue.

Our region also has some fantastic examples of businesses working with schools. This work must be recognised with support to encourage schools to initiate this kind of good practice.

Slashed planning department budgets and a lack of political will at local levels continue to hinder our region’s housing industry. We need greater incentives and more substantial political support at a local level in a bid to support industry.

In order to ensure the continued growth and success of the North-East, it is vital that these issues are addressed and adequate measures taken to support regional expansion – only then can we go from class swot to top of the class