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Growth deals boost North-East, but London gets bigger share
Updated 10:14am Tuesday 8th July 2014 in News
MINISTERIAL SUPPORT: Communities and Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis MP visits the Hitachi site at Merchants Park in Newton Aycliffe. Pictured while talking to Northern Echo Business Editor Andy Richardson
GOVERNMENT attempts to rebalance the economy have come under fire after it emerged London and the South-East have been given more cash than the North-East and Yorkshire to boost jobs, skills and infrastructure.
Up to 9,000 jobs across the North-East and Yorkshire could be created as part of a drive to hand greater spending powers to the regions under the Local Growth Fund deals announced yesterday.
A total of £22.9m has been allocated to the Tees Valley area in the first year from 2015 to 2016; £34.2m to York and North Yorkshire and £111.7m in the rest of the North-East.
London was handed £151m and the South-East £84m.
Growth Funds are a flagship Coalition policy aimed at helping hard hit regional economies to compete with richer parts of the country, and to devolve powers from Whitehall.
Stockton North Labour MP, Alex Cunningham, welcomed the cash boost for Tees Valley, but added: “What we need is our local authorities and LEPs provided with real, substantial powers and funding to rapidly invest in our area – whilst working in partnership with neighbouring authorities and LEPs to drive investment for the North-East region.
“I would have felt the Government was serious about helping our area if it had been making major funds available now to allow projects like the new road for the airport, the improvements to ease access to Wynyard Park and the offshore wind research and validation centre to go ahead without delay.
“Sadly, today's announcement is about very limited jam tomorrow.”
Brandon Lewis, the Minister for Communities and Local Government, yesterday visited some of the North-East projects backed by the Growth Fund, including Merchant Park, Newton Aycliffe in County Durham where Hitachi is building an £82m train factory. The site has been pledged cash to improve road access and power supplies that will attract more businesses onto adjacent land.
Mr Lewis denied that LEPS, which are overseeing the funding pots, lacked the manpower to handle the additional responsibilities.
Among the major projects to secure funding were £300,000 to support a study into remodelling Bank Top station in Darlington; the ongoing Central Park development in the town, as well as investments in a new research laboratory at Wilton, near Redcar, and the Agri-Food research centre at Sand Hutton, York.
A major revamp of Beamish Museum was among the schemes that missed out on funding this time around, but they could still go ahead as part of the region’s long-term plans, said Paul Woolston, chairman of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), who was delighted to see his area secure the third biggest funding amount in the country.
The Tees Valley could eventually get an estimated £90.3m in the coming years of the Growth Fund. York and North Yorkshire will eventually be granted about £110.1m and the rest of the North-East £289.3m.
The investment could be doubled with match funding from councils and businesses.
The LEPs in the Tees Valley, North-East and North Yorkshire helped develop the projects with various organisations and presented them to the Government in a bid for funding.
It is hoped the projects in the Tees Valley will create up to 1,000 jobs and 1,500 new homes while 4,000 jobs and 5,000 homes could be created in York and North Yorkshire and 4,000 jobs in the rest of the North-East.
Sandy Anderson, chair of the Tees Valley LEP, said: “The Growth Deal provides another example of our local authority and private sector partners working together to decide the priorities for our area and to drive economic growth from the local level. We welcome the opportunity to continue to work with government to build on this deal and attract further investment to create more jobs, more businesses, more highly skilled workers and to create a thriving economy.”