Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Green Shoots Are There, but They Need Help to Flourish; Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Green Shoots Are There, but They Need Help to Flourish; Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: Hugh Morg an- Williams

ANEW financial year starts this week and with that in mind I thought I would see what signs of optimism there are in our regional economy - a search for some green shoots to cheer us up as winter descends once more.

On a big scale, the Nissan expansion and investment is unalloyed good news, there are signs of considerable progress in the chemical and offshore energy sectors and the region enjoys the best export performance in the UK.

Later this month the North East will celebrate success at The Journal's business awards at Hardwick Hall. The standard of entries improves each year. These are all signs that the North East is holding its own through some of the worst economic times in our memory. And yet unemploy-These are all East is holding through some economic times ment is at its highest level for 18 years with more job losses in the public sector to come, One North East has closed its doors for the last time and the LEPs have yet to make a significant impact on our economic future. For the vast majority of small and medium-sized businesses, it's still a struggle to source working capital to finance stock and work in progress.

It's hard to fill certain skill shortages and orders are still hard to find. The re-balancing of our economy has a long way to go.

There are also signs the North/South divide is getting worse. The latest house price survey concluded that there had been small price rises in most areas of England, except the North.

For a region that can show a thing or two to our southern friends, was there anything in the Budget that could help? Certainly there were some technical fiscal changes that could aid investment in research and our new businesses.

There was some much trumpeted help to reduce loan costs for businesses, but I doubt this will help new companies or riskier projects because the banks' risk appetite is reducing not increasing. …

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