BORIS Johnson’s announcement of a spending spree to help the economy cope with the “aftershock” of the coronavirus crisis has been greeted with mixed reactions in the region.

While Tory MPs welcomed the announcement, their Labour opponents say it lacks in substance and business leaders feel there is "very little detail".

Jonathan Walker, assistant director of policy, North East England Chamber of Commerce said: “We have consistently told Government that recovery in the North-East must be built on principles of community, fairness, sustainability and opportunity; themes that were all covered in the Prime Minister’s speech.

“Boris Johnson said all the right things when it comes to addressing the gaps between the different parts of the country and to levelling up regions like the North-East.  However, with the welcome exception of dualling the A1, for which we have campaigned long and hard, there was very little detail.” 

He added: “If the Government wants to boost business confidence they need to move on quickly from big picture rhetoric. There has to be precise information as to how, and most importantly when, these policies and measures will be delivered. Otherwise businesses would be entitled to feel as if they have heard this all before.”

North Durham Labour MP Kevan Jones said: “The Prime Minister’s words now need to be followed by action. Looking at the figures he has announced, they are a drop in the ocean to what the North-East has lost over the last ten years.

“When they have opportunities to boost the North-East they should take them. Which doesn’t bode well from the recent decision on the advanced vaccine manufacture in which, when it was choice between Oxford and the North-East, they chose Oxford.

“It shows they still have a South-East England mentality when it comes to investment.”

Easington Labour MP Graeme Morris said: “We have got high expectations of him honouring his pledge to apply resources (this is even before the Covid crisis) to address some of the regional disparities and level up the econony.

"If he is planning to spend money on infrastructure an obvious target is the North-East and I am hoping that areas like ours will be principle beneficiaries and we aren’t going to see another example of resources that are targeted to the more affluent areas, invariably in South and South-East to the expense of areas like ours that really need it.

North West Durham MP Richard Holden said: “This announcement today from the Prime Minister, recommitting to this government’s levelling-up agenda is hugely welcome and the monies announced begin the process of repaying the debt we own to the voters of County Durham and the North Of England for putting their faith in Conservative MPs at the last election.”

Simon Clarke, Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland: “Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that we’ll bring forward £5bn capital investment projects, supporting jobs and our economic recovery, including schools, hospitals, high streets, roads, rail and much more.

“This Conservative Government is determined to build the homes, fix the NHS, tackle the skills crisis and mend the gap in opportunity and productivity and connectivity between the regions of the UK.

“The North East is a major beneficiary, with £64m this year and next for local growth projects and £19m for new homes in the Tees Valley. Towns nominated for Town Deals, like Middlesbrough, will also receive £1m this financial year to start work. There is £1bn for the first 50 projects of a new ten years school rebuilding programme, and £1.5bn for hospital maintenance. This is only the beginning, and a great sign that Government is going to build a Britain with world class infrastructure."

City of Durham Labour MP Mary Foy said: “As usual, the Prime Minister’s speech was big on soundbites, and lacking in substance. He may frame this as a new deal, but it is anything but.

“The UK is facing the biggest economic downturn for a generation or more, and we need to see the Government with an actual, detailed plan to lead us safely out of both the health crisis and the coming economic crisis. This speech simply rehashed a number of old pledges and commitments like recruiting 20,000 more police officers, presumably to make up for roughly the same number lost under the last Government.

"In fact, he is even rowing back on previous promises, such as the pledge to spend £12 billion on affordable housing over the next eight years, when in the budget earlier this year the same amount was promised over five years.

“Ultimately, this isn’t anywhere near enough. The pledges the Government has made equates to less than £100 per person. This is hardly the transformational deal that the PM would like to make it out to be. And despite once again making promises to level up the country, there was no detail from the Prime Minister on how he will tackle the inequalities across our communities.

Jacob Young, Conservative MP for Redcar, said: "The Prime Minister's speech was a rallying cry for Britain's economic recovery and it bodes well for Teesside especially.

"It will be welcome news for many people across our region to hear Boris confirm once more that there will be no return to austerity and, instead, we're going to see a massive surge in investment to front load the economy and boost growth.

"I'm particularly excited about investment in Hydrogen technology. Teesside boasts more than 50% of the UK's hydrogen production and with projects like Net Zero Teesside ready to take off, we can be the centre of our Green Recovery.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “The Government has already shown it is committed to levelling up our region by investing in key infrastructure projects and giving the North the attention and investment it deserves and today’s speech from the Prime Minister was another reminder that we won’t be left behind.

“It was great for our region that the Government committed to a clean, green jobs recovery. With Net Zero Teesside, we will become the centre for UK clean growth with the world’s first full-scale carbon capture, utilisation and storage facility, creating thousands of clean, green, good quality, well paid jobs for local people in Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool.

“Having the infrastructure in place and better connectivity will attract more investment and create more good quality, high skilled jobs. More investment and more businesses in our region is essential for my plan for jobs, which means more good quality, well paid local jobs for local workers.

“Already this week, the Government has thrown its weight behind my plans to upgrade both Darlington and Middlesbrough Station, with another £11m. This follows the Chancellor’s commitment to fully back the upgrade of Darlington Station at the last budget and will help thousands of rail travellers in my region with more frequent and reliable services, ensuring we are better connected to London and the rest of the UK.

“With this, plus my plans for a new Tees Crossing, our on demand Tees Flex bus service, investment in cycling and walking routes and of course our revitalised airport, I am making sure no one is left behind and Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool will be better connected across the region and to the rest of the UK than ever before.”