Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

A United Voice for A United Voice for North North

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

A United Voice for A United Voice for North North

Article excerpt

AS THE announcement on Local Enterprise Partnerships looms, former Minister for the North East Nick Brown, pictured, writes for the Gazette WE have got a problem. The new Government is abolishing the region's Economic Development Agencies, and creating new ones with only roughly 30% of the money previously available.

It is essential that we stick together in the face of adversity and defend the livelihoods of our fellow citizens.

No region has done more to help itself than the North-east of England. Our economic growth rates were the fastest of any English region until the economic downturn struck.

The question facing us now is how best to respond to the Government's new agenda.

Essentially our region is two conurbations, Tyne and Wear and Teesside, with an extensive and very beautiful rural hinterland including market towns with their own economic development issues.

From 2007 to the general election I was the Minister for the North East of England. I spent a lot of time on specific economic development issues in Teesside.

I took the view that I should step in and champion our region wherever I thought there would be a chance to make a difference.

I worked very closely with the leaders and chief executives of the Tees Valley borough councils.

It was clear to me that the culture of working together along the Tees Valley was further developed than in the rest of the region.

The Tees Valley local authorities were setting a good example in dealing with strategic economic development issues to the rest of the region.

It was also clear to me that there was a widespread suspicion on Teesside that calls for a single regional approach would mean a drift of investment, jobs and decision-making to Newcastle and Tyneside.

Being a Newcastle MP myself, I was and am very sensitive to this point. I understand it and did my best to deal with it by getting involved in the details of specific Teesside projects.

It was also clear to me that the whole region needed to speak with one voice, at the heart of government, if we were to have any chance of getting heard.

This is simply about size -our entire region is just 4.2% of the UK population. We are now, even more than we were in the past, in direct competition for very scarce resources with others who are bigger than us.

Unity is strength, and we have to fight our corner. Fragmentation will weaken us and our case just won't get heard.

This approach delivered for Teesside. In 2007, I opened the new AMEC design and engineering centre at the oil and gas processing centre in Wynyard Park. One North East's intervention allowed AMEC to expand its business and create new skilled jobs in the region.

Without regional co-ordination, large infrastructure projects like this would not have received the necessary support that it needed to get off the ground. …

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