A series of meetings is planned to focus on the region's continuing poor record in small business start-ups.

Chartered accountants will hold talks next month with representatives of regional development agency One NorthEast, Business Link and the Small Business Service to see how they can help tackle the problem.

The issue will also be discussed when the Tyne and Wear Start-up Consortium gives a briefing on its business support services to the Accountants' Forum in November.

The meetings come as research shows the North-East remains bottom of the national league for new enterprises.

With only 24 start-ups for every 10,000 people, the region lags well behind the South-West, with 45, and the UK average of 35, according to the Barclays small business survey.

Darlington fares better than the North-East as a whole with a start-up rate of 30, while Hartlepool's 15 is the region's lowest.

Keith Proudfoot, regional manager of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, said: "Attempts to develop an enterprise culture in the North-East seem to have had little impact.

"We are keen to discuss how we can work with other agencies to help address this ongoing issue."

Keith Williamson, small to medium enterprise specialist at the Northern Society of Chartered Accountants, said: "As business advisors, we are key stakeholders in the region's small firms sector and wish to play our part in encouraging more home-grown enterprises."