WE ask business leaders to look ahead to some of the key events for 2016 and what the North-East needs to boost growth and jobs.

James Ramsbotham, chief executive, North-East Chamber of Commerce:

"This promises to be a year of significant change for the region.

"We have launched our 2016 Manifesto in response to the issues our members have been asking us to campaign and we aim to build on the great work done this year to ensure the North-East’s voice is heard loud and clear.

"A successful Northern Powerhouse starts by harnessing our regional strengths and building on them. Our region will grow via improved infrastructure, our creative and tech industries creating mutually beneficial links and priorities, and the North of England being able to move swiftly to maximise our potential.

"The £1.3 billion devolution deal will see £900m of funding channelled through to the North-East. This investment and greater localised powers over employment and skills, transport, planning, business support and investment puts our destiny in our own hands.

"We will work together to set ambitious, achievable targets; put aside parochial short-term fixes and concentrate on areas and projects that will deliver long-term sustainable economic benefit for us all. We will be united across all sectors, including our local authorities, but must be focused on the larger economic picture and not just what it means for a particular county, borough or city.

"Achieve this and we will grasp the opportunity afforded us by devolution. Let’s lead the Northern Powerhouse and fulfil our region’s potential."

Colin Fyfe, chief executive of Darlington Building Society: “This is a very exciting year for Darlington Building Society.

“We have been in Darlington for 160 years and look forward to 2016 with the confidence and resources needed to thrive and prosper as an independent mutual society for many years to come.

“Moving online, while still investing in our branch network, processing mortgage applications or savings requirements quickly using the skills of local managers and qualified mortgage advisors and rolling out a number of focused community and charity initiatives which will be encourage staff, members and the general public to get involved are all on the agenda this year.”

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director general: "The Government has placed a number of extra strains on UK businesses that are adding up - the national living wage, the apprenticeship levy, pension auto-enrolment. Businesses want to reward their staff fairly, but as the burdens and costs accumulate, particularly in the retail sector, growth risks being cut off and jobs lost.

"Overall, UK policymakers need to deliver regulatory stability and predictability. Businesses struggle to invest when the rules repeatedly change – as we have seen in the energy sector where policy shifts have chilled investment.

"Urgent skills shortages exist across many industries. The Government understands this challenge well and is seeking to address it through a new 0.5 per cent apprenticeship levy on all businesses with over £3m payroll. Though the ambition is welcome, the scheme doesn’t yet have a clear delivery system and risks failure due to chasing blunt targets.

"Business and government will need to collaborate closely to make it work for our young people and for firms – the CBI stands ready to do so. This will be particularly important for smaller scale-up firms, which have been such an important driver of UK growth and have a pressing need for skilled people."

Dr Stan Higgins, chief executive and director of NEPIC (North-East process industries cluster).

"The chemistry-based process industry remains the heartbeat of the North-East regional economy.

"There are 250 companies adding value to the basic raw materials provided by the Earth, such as oil, coal, gas and minerals, turning these into food (fertilizers), energy and heat (fuels and electricity) and other useful materials (plastics, paper, metals, lubricants, pharmaceuticals).

Clearly, without these science and engineering-based industries, society would not have such a diversity and abundance of food, clothing, housing, transport and an ever-expanding life expectation.

"It is only when you put industries like steel, chemicals and power generation into such a context can you really appreciate that turning basic raw materials, and today we can add societal waste to these, can we appreciate these industries are economically enormously value adding.

"It is surprising therefore that despite underpinning just about every human activity, here in the UK it is of great concern that such industries are not supported by a Government-owned integrated industrial strategy, as they are in other countries.

"Consequently, as we have seen with steel manufacturing, sure as eggs are eggs industries will migrate as will many of the down-stream manufacturing industries that depend on them.

"The UK has had decades in which politicians have followed a philosophy that the market will determine the outcome for industry.

If this is the best approach why is it we do not let the market determine what happens say in the health service or indeed in transport, welfare provision or defence?

"We seem to have lost the understanding that industry is a fundamentally important requirement to the well-being of society, not only through jobs but also from basic economics.

Science and engineering knowledge grows in its complexity by the minute.

The ability to understand it from the sidelines by admiring complex machinery or mathematical manipulation has gone.

Even scientists and engineers are becoming ever more specialised.

This growth in depth and breadth of scientific understanding has become exponential and the ability for non-scientific politicians and indeed civil servants to make decisions, on our behalf, about it has become a real problem."

Beth Farhat, Northern TUC Regional Secretary: "This is going to be a worrying time for more and more people in our region who are out of work starting the new year. We desperately hope 2016 will see a reduction in unemployment for our region.

"To make things worse there are thousands more public sector workers at risk of redundancy as a result of the Conservative government’s desire to shrink the state and keep on slashing local public services despite greater need.

"Trade unions will oppose this alongside continuing our core work in representing millions of workers across the country and making sure they are treated fairly at work.

"Collective bargaining is at the heart of winning a better deal for workers. It works because employers and employees both have some power.

Part of that balance is that workers can take industrial action and withdraw their labour. But the proposals in the government’s Trade Union Bill undermine the right to strike, harm industrial relations and reward the worst employers. The Bill will move to the House of Lords and we are working hard to prevent it becoming law in its current form.

"We need a fair economic plan for recovery; protecting vital public services, an active industrial policy, investment in infrastructure and skills and resources to encourage inward investment to the region.

For the recovery to deliver for our region in 2016 it needs to benefit our region's workers. We need stronger growth, fair pay and an end to ideologically-motivated Tory cuts."