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Dismay over lack of consultation on economic plan for North-East
TEES Valley development chiefs last night voiced dismay that they were not properly consulted on bold plans to transform the North-East economy being unveiled today.
Tackling the "evil" of low skills and high youth unemployment is at the heart of a report called More and Better Jobs: North East International, which plans to create jobs, apprenticeships and make the region a hotspot for innovation and international trade.
A team led by former Transport Minister Lord Andrew Adonis has produced the recommendations that set ambitious targets for 60,000 new jobs; a doubling of apprenticeship places to 13,000 a year and the formation of new regional agencies to control budgets for transport, training and exports.
It calls for a North-East Innovation Board to link universities with pioneering industries, and public bodies such as the proposed British Business Bank and National Audit Office to locate their headquarters in this region instead of London.
It wants four University Technical Colleges set up to train young people for jobs in industry, improved school standards and a bigger proportion of pupils from the region going on to higher education.
Responsibility for delivering the plans will require the seven councils covering Durham, Tyne & Wear and Northumberland to join forces, with backing from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which commissioned Lord Adonis's root-and-branch probe.
The Labour peer said the plans would only succeed if the seven council leaders set aside their differences to form a combined authority, which he wants to see in place by April 2014.
However, Sandy Anderson, Chairman of Tees Valley Unlimited was concerned that the report had missed the opportunity to include views from the whole region.
He said: "It is perhaps somewhat disappointing that despite offers from Tees Valley Unlimited and our local authorities little opportunity was given to submit our views to the Commission.
"Despite this, I am sure that we will find much in the Review that will complement our own well-established economic strategies and policies that we are already delivering in the Tees Valley area.
"There is already good joint working between the two areas on activities such as transport and we anticipate this will continue and strengthen when we tackle other similar strategic issues moving forward."
Lord Adonis will unveil the report to an audience of business and political leaders at Vantec Europe's offices in Sunderland this morning.
The Labour Peer will outline the reasons why the region lags behind the national average on education, transport links and the quality of its businesses.
In his speech he will say: "We don't have enough innovative companies offering enough good jobs; our education and skills base is too weak; we don't make enough of our natural resources; our rural, cultural and tourist assets are amongst the best kept lights under the bushel.
"In transport connections, the North-East is too isolated within the UK and internationally and too poorly joined up internally; and that, for a whole set of reasons, not least the misguided propensity of governments of all parties to chop and change local and regional institutions from Whitehall, the North-East does not project a strong enough identity nationally and internationally, and is not a strong enough magnet for talent, trade and tourism."
The report has warmly welcomed by the Government with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Lord Michael Heseltine praising the proposals.
Mr Clegg said: "This is exactly the proactive thinking local areas should be conducting and we thank Lord Adonis for his work which will form part of an ongoing discussion with the North-East on their local economic growth."
The next step will be for the council and LEP leaders to agree which parts of the plan should go ahead. The North-East Independent Economic Review team which penned the report included high-profile figures, including Northumbrian Water chief Heidi Mottram, former Observer editor Will Hutton, Lord Don Curry, chairman of NFU Mutual, Paul Woolston, of NELEP, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
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