REGIONAL development agency One NorthEast must be more focused and deliver major results soon if it is to fulfil its remit, according to business leaders.

The Government-created organisation has made steps to improve the economic fortunes of the region but, critics say, it lacks transparency and is blighted by bureaucracy.

As the agency prepares to bid farewell to the two leaders in charge of its work since its inception in 1999, demands were last night made for their replacements to give the organisation a new direction.

Mike Collier leaves the chief executive's post at the end of this month, to be replaced by Northumberland County Council chief executive Alan Clarke.

Dr John Bridge will step down as chairman in December - interviews for his successor are ongoing. Both men were praised for the work they had done.

Steve Rankin, regional director of the Confederation of British Industry, said: "I think the general business mood towards One NorthEast has changed measurably, for the good since I came into this job just 13 months ago.

"It is too early to judge how successful they have been but we would expect to see results pretty soon. If we do not start to see some significant changes within the next couple of years then the success of the ten-year strategy is going to be in some doubt."

The agency was praised for devolving money and power to sub-regional partnerships to tackle needs individual to specific areas of the North-East.

John Irwin, president of the North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC), said: "Compared with other RDAs, they have been brave with their sub-regional partnerships.

"But the administration of running that sub-regional framework is very bureaucratic and complicated.

"The overall bureaucracy of One NorthEast is still a concern.

"One NorthEast at times seems to lack a direct focus on a small number of issues and tends to deal with a huge raft of issues.

"There is a feeling that if they could just focus on three or four it might have been better."

Kevan Jones, North Durham MP, attacked the work of the agency, saying it had failed to take major decisions to transform the region.

"I think the agency has been a disappointment and needs a completely new direction," he said. "Hopefully, it will get that with the new chief executive and new chairman.

"This was supposed to be an organisation championing the region. It has just not done that.

"After four years you would at least expect to see some of the major targets met.

"It was supposed to have given confidence to the region and a voice for the region.

"It has not taken the big strategic decisions. When it was set up, people wanted a big, strategic vision about things like transport and information technology. They have not done that."

The transport issue has also been a bugbear of the NECC.

Mr Irwin said: "The RDA has not focused enough on transport issues.

"Transport to the regions in all its forms is crucial."