Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Value of Development Agencies

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Value of Development Agencies

Article excerpt


ALL of us recognise how hard our economy and region have been hit by global recession. I believe that things would be worse without a very good regional development agency. That is why I am bemused by Liberal Democrat confusion on and Conservative commitments to scrap regional development agencies such as One North East.

I always want to ensure that public bodies work with unions and businesses to help create new work with the minimum of fuss and that has been a key part of ONE's role.

I must confess to some initial doubts about regional development agencies being unaccountable. That is why it was right that the government set up regional scrutiny committees in the Commons. Sadly both the Liberal Democrats and the Tories boycott these committees.

The North East regional committee, of which I am a member, is completing a report into how the region has coped during the recession. This follows months of intense scrutiny of One North East.

The most commonly heard message from all sides was that the agency has played a pivotal role in tackling the challenges which face us all. ONE has a strong track record of delivery. It is helping businesses to survive the recession and has devoted an additional pounds 46m to frontline business support. This includes free business health checks which have been taken up by more than 4,300 regional firms.

And it is delivering for our region in several key areas.

It is working with a wide range of industrial and public sector partners, including Nissan in Sunderland to make the region the best place in the country for the development of electric vehicle technology.

It is a key partner with the New and Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth, which has recently secured pounds 10m of Government funding. This helps it to lead the way in exploiting the economic potential of offshore wind and wave power.

It has helped the Printable Electronics Technology Centre at NETPark in Sedgefield to make it the recognised national base for the emerging printable electronics sector. …

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