POLITICIANS and business groups have given their support to The Northern Echo's joint campaign with other newspapers in the region calling for investment in the North.

Conservative Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen joined the campaign's call to "put the region first", whilst Labour's Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson said the region was "punching below our weight".

Mr Houchen said: "I’m delighted that newspapers across the North have joined forces to do their bit to ramp up our voice in Westminster.

“Thanks to the Tees Valley’s devolution deal with Government, we have an elected Mayor, a £600m investment fund and a war chest of powers to help transform our economy. We’re never going to stop pushing for more local control and cash to help us deliver real change for our residents.

“For the North to truly reach its potential and for the Northern Powerhouse to succeed, each and every one of us must keep up the pressure so Westminster politicians of all stripes never lose sight of half of the country.

“The list highlighted by the Northern Echo – from investment in education and transport powers, to further devolution and improved broadband – would give us more tools for huge economic growth and make sure we’re not left behind.

“We have a lot to shout about and I’m happy to join the call to put our region first and secure a prosperous future for all our residents.”

Mr Wilson said: "We need to ‘Power Up The North’. We are punching below our weight. But at the same time we have much to be proud about. Great businesses, people and communities. We could do better if we had the right infrastructure, especially transport infrastructure. Rail and road connections need to be improved. Studies show that poor connectivity between communities and regions can reduce economic performance. We need a commitment from government to invest in the North East.

"Although the HS2’s route may not reach Newcastle it’s benefits could still be strongly felt in the region. Hitachi, in my constituency, is bidding jointly with Bombardier in Derby to build the rolling stock. If they are successful the new high speed trains will be built in our region generating jobs and investment. That would be great news and is one of the reasons for HS2 to go ahead.

"I’ve got ambition for our region and want it to go from strength to strength. So let’s ‘Power Up The North’.

Jonathan Walker, assistant director of policy at the North East England Chamber of Commerce, said: "For decades the North has been held back by a lack of investment in critical infrastructure and centralised decision making Successive Governments have talked about redressing economic imbalances and supporting growth in the North, but progress has been limited and frustratingly slow.

"Regions such as the North-East have tremendous economic potential. Any prospective Prime Minister needs to not only recognise this potential, but also help us deliver on it.

"This means both improving our access to markets through major infrastructure investment and fundamentally changing the way Government thinks about economic development.

"We know this is a great place in which to do business. Our economic assets, industrial heritage and quality of life combine to create a business environment that is hard to beat.

"But we also know how much more this region could achieve with the right investment and support. It is time for Government to show us that they agree.”

Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu added: "I endorse today's unity from the newspapers of the North - and how they're now using their collective strength to speak up for their readers and communities.

"There is more that unites us than can ever divide us, and this includes this compelling call for new action by our political leaders to tackle the social and economic inequality that exists here.

"And it means our national leaders answering this very important question - do they want the North to be a region with just a great past, or do they want the North to be a region with a future as bright as any other chapter in its history? For every community, every leader that forgets its memory becomes senile.

"The answer should be obvious. We have the people. We have the expertise. We are one North. We are proud of our diversity. But we need the tools. And we need our leaders in London to look us in the eye and treat us - and respect the North - as equals.

"Our newspapers have highlighted a range of opportunities from industry, skills and training to education, housing and health policy - issues which matter to the 15 million people who live and work in the North.

"I hope - and pray - that our political leaders show us how they will support the Power Up The North campaign.

"All of us want a North of England that is empowered; prosperous; fair; forward-looking and competitive in a global marketplace inside which there is enough opportunity for us all to share. There is no fear in love. What are our political leaders afraid of? Love us and help us to flourish. Words! Words! Words! We are sick and tired of words. Please do the right thing."