SUBSTANTIAL investment will be needed to help companies in the region cope with the current economic pressures, business leaders have warned.

The North-East England Chamber of Commerce has mapped out a set of demands it wants to see in the Chancellor’s spending review today.

The list covers a range of measures needed to support the region’s business community to recover from Brexit and Covid challenges as well as specific asks on important issues such as employment and building skills.

Director of policy Jonathan Walker said: “The spending review is an important opportunity for the chancellor to put into action the commitment to levelling up the country.

“We are being hard hit on a number of fronts due to Covid challenges exacerbating existing problems in our region.

“There need to be new, substantial investment announcements, with clear timescales and delivery routes.

“Warm words are not enough.”

He stressed the important role the region’s exporters will play if the economy is to bounce back.

Mr Walker said there will need to be adequate financial support and guidance to help address business concerns over Brexit and to allow them to adapt to the increased administrative burden expected.

As well as exporters the chamber want to see support for entrepreneurs, with many people looking for new opportunities including potentially starting their own business.

The chamber has long campaigned for more detail on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to help the region level up.

The North-East now has the highest unemployment rate, the lowest employment rate and the lowest average hours worked of all British regions.

It urges the Chancellor to give clarity on this key investment programme.

Mr Walker said: “The transport and aviation sectors have been particularly hit by Covid and the guidance on working from home.

“We need to ensure that the region retains its connections to help us develop opportunities.

“Digital connectivity is also increasingly important for businesses so investment in quality digital infrastructure will be essential.

Further Education has recently faced some of the largest cuts in the education sector.

In the last decade, per-student funding has fallen by 12 per cent in colleges and 23 per cent in sixth forms, while funding into adult education has fallen by 45 per cent in real terms.

Jonathan Walker said: “Our region’s recovery from the economic fallout of Covid-19 will rely on a well-funded and well-resourced Further Education system which can deliver the widescale retraining and reskilling necessary to help adults into employment, as well as ensure all young people have the skills needed to enter into a much more competitive labour market.

“Therefore, it is vital Government commits to its pledges to level up the skills system and announces a plan for skills which includes locally led re-skilling programmes as well as long-term funding increases for Further Education institutions.”