Andrew Hodgson, Chair of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP), today gave his reaction to the Budget delivered by Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP.
“This was a budget covering both immediate and longer-term economic priorities, with a number of specific announcements set to benefit the North East and support us to create 100,000 more and better jobs in the region.
“Firstly, we are pleased with the announcement of a wide-ranging package of support for businesses to help counter the impact of COVID-19 including Statutory Sick Pay to be refunded by government for up to 14 days for businesses with under 250 staff, and the temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, which will support businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts.
“The Chancellor has also laid the groundwork for accelerating economic growth and development over the course of this parliament and beyond.
“We welcome the announcement of £198m allocation to the North East from the Transforming Cities Fund, including £95m for frequency and reliability improvements across our Metro system. The announcement that how the A1/A19 north of Newcastle can be improved will be considered, and future funding and devolution to improve transport within our region, are also positive. We look forward to working with government to clarify the details over coming months.
“Up to £387m has been committed in 2021-22 to provide certainty for local areas that they can continue with projects that are funded by the Local Growth Fund, and decisions on the future of the regional funding will be made at this summer’s Comprehensive Spending Review.
“Over the longer term, we are pleased that government has recognised the importance of investing in the drivers of productivity. These are also set out as priorities in the North East Strategic Economic Plan.
“Investment in R&D is being stepped up nationally to £22bn by 2024 and we welcome the review of the distribution of this funding. We hope this will ensure stronger opportunities for science, research and innovation investment in our area. Key technologies for the future including electric vehicles and life sciences have been recognised, in which the North East has particular strengths.
“The announcement of a number of actions to support businesses, including improvements to access to finance for start-ups and SMEs, and help with exporting, is positive news for the region. We are also pleased that the government has recognised the strategic importance of the Growth Hub network, committing an additional £10m across England.
“We are pleased that the North East is benefiting from efforts to continue to strengthen digital connectivity in our region. North of Tyne has secured £12m through the Local Full Fibre Networks Challenge Fund – another factor which underpins our drive to increase productivity.
“And finally, locating a decision-making campus for HM Treasury and other government departments in the north is something we look forward to discussing with government. It is a signal that they understand the need for government to have a closer relationship with the north. We will also work closely with government to ensure that the North East benefits from today’s announcements as more detailed plans are brought forward.”