More than 150 North East business leaders heard praise for their hard work during the pandemic and an ambitious vision for the future of the region’s economy.

The positive message was set out at North East England Chamber of Commerce’s AGM held at the Beacon of Light, Sunderland.

Lesley Moody, MBE, Chamber President,paid tribute to the way the North East business community had supported each other but also the next challenge for them.

She said: “In October the Chancellor will set out Government’s spending plans for the next three years. He will be under enormous pressure to address public finances following the massive increase in spending brought about by Covid.

“But it would be short-sighted in the extreme for him to make decisions that ultimately hinder or reverse any progress towards levelling up. Instead, he must recognise both the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on regions like ours and our potential to make a much bigger contribution to the national economy.”

She also paid tribute to outgoing Chamber chief executive James Ramsbotham, saying: “He believes at a time when there has never been a greater need for high standards of behaviour, the region’s business community has proved to be an exemplar.”

John McCabe, Chamber chief executive designate said: "Our region never stands still. Domestic and international markets are constantly evolving. New opportunities emerge and unforeseen, sometimes unprecedented challenges have to be faced. Regions require levelling up.

“And if we create a network of good businesses, we will build a stronger, future-proofed economy, underpinning a better, fairer, greener society.

“We’ll unleash the full potential of our people enabling them to contribute more to their region. We won’t achieve this alone. We’ll renew relationships and seek to work alongside economic development partners, like-minded friends in the public and third sectors, academia and health as well as across the business community.

"I'm also looking forward to sharing this agenda with political leaders all across our region. I will do so in a spirit of co-operation because irrespective of party politics, the Chamber is open to collaboration with anyone who believes in a levelled up North East as we do.

“We are uniquely placed to be as a champion and challenger, an advocate and leader for the whole of our North East.”