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Labour MPs savage Adonis' economic rescue plan for the North-East
AN ECONOMIC rescue plan for the North-East was savaged by Labour MPs today (Thursday) as a damp squib that will fail to deliver.
They used a Commons debate to rip apart the flagship review - headed by former Cabinet minister Lord Adonis – for its focus on “structures”, rather than emergency measures to boost jobs.
North-East MPs questioned how a central idea for a ‘super authority’, combining seven local councils, could spark revival without decisive Government action and an end to cuts.
Some called instead for a “regional minister” with a direct line to Whitehall powerbrokers – an innovation set up by Labour, but axed by the Coalition.
Nick Brown, the Newcastle East MP and former ‘Minister for the North-East’, said the key issue was continuing sky-high unemployment, five years after the Crash.
Attacking the Adonis review for lacking “boldness”, he said: “The Government has the power and the purse strings – more so now than previously. The need for action is now.”
Kevan Jones (North Durham) criticised Lord Adonis – a Labour peer and personal adviser to Ed Miliband – for ignoring the views of the region’s MPs.
He said: “That doesn’t surprise me at all from Andrew Adonis” – adding he had “never been elected to anything other than, perhaps, milk monitor at school”.
Meanwhile, Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) said it was “intellectually dishonest” for the review to ignore the devastating impact of huge spending cuts on the region.
Grahame Morris (Easington) said it was vital to recognise that cash-starved ‘local enterprise partnerships’ (LEPs) could not help “economic cold spots”, such as his constituency.
And Iain Wright (Hartlepool) demanded a stronger focus on jobs and productivity, adding: “Not at some distant point, but now – to help the people of the North-East.”
The scale of the criticism clearly surprised the Conservative minister replying for the Government, who pointed out the review was “by the North-East, for the North-East and by a former labour Cabinet minister”.
David Willetts, the universities minister, described it as a “high-quality piece of work”, promising action on education, transport and skills.
In particular, Mr Willetts expressed enthusiasm for an intensive “schools challenge” to tackle underperformance, modelled on a successful scheme in London.
He said: “I very much look forward to hearing full details on this proposal. We are very interested to see it worked up.”
Ministers have already given the green light to the “super authority” plan, describing it as the first step to winning new powers and funding.
The review, called ‘More and Better Jobs: North-East International’, was drawn up by an expert panel, headed by Lord Adonis, and published in April.
It also contained proposals to: * Double the number of apprentices to 13,000 a year.
- Set up three new agencies to improve transport, skills and international trade.
- Locate the headquarters of more national bodies in the North-East.
- Create four new technical colleges.
Liberal Democrat MP Ian Swales (Redcar) backed the report as “very high quality”and one that could drive improvements from the “bottom up”.
Later, he tweeted: “Surprised to hear as much criticism of the North-East Adonis report from North-East Labour MPs.”
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