NECC Column by Rachel Anderson

First published in Business News
Last updated

THEY'RE digging up Exchange Square… again.

Officially, they say its to replace a gas main but I’m not fooled, I think, inspired by Leicester, they are having a speculative dig for King Alfred or maybe, someone even more important , Brian Clough.

This area is probably a bit short on royal bones under municipal paving and we can’t really lay claim to any of the really good pitched battles (Cowton Moor is about the nearest), it doesn’t mean we are without our victories.

Last week for example, we were awarded the City Deal giving this area more power over funding and development. All right, it doesn’t have the same romance; but no-one had to paint themselves blue (unless they wanted to), the breach wasn’t gone into and the only ones looking for a horse were the Food Standards Agency.

Mind, the City Deal wouldn’t make much of a film, but you can’t have everything.

Joking aside, the City Deal will have a big impact on this area. Although there is no new money at this stage, the crucial difference with City Deal is that we have a new autonomy over the existing money.

We have so often said that this area is unique with unique issues which so often cannot be addressed with a national one size fits all approach.

Funding and polices so often designed with the South-East in mind only scratch the surface of our issues and it is only by careful targeting and flexibility that area can make progress.

It looks as though we may finally be able to play to the area’s strengths and be recognised for the assets we have rather than as a national problem to be solved.

The focus is on manufacturing industry, research and development and attracting world class companies by exploiting the facilities and expertise we know is here.

Target spending on infrastructure and skills to this goal as well and we should have an unbeatable offer.

The devil is yet in the detail and TVU now face about eight months of intense negotiation with the civil service to get the best deal.

While the negotiations might feel as long as a medieval war, the likelihood of historians digging for the armies of the LEP under a car park in Stockton in 500 years are a bit remote.

So, in the interests of history (and tourism), if you could keep an eye out for Alfred when you’re digging any holes, it would be appreciated

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