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Businesses, individuals and voluntary and community organisations are invited to have their say on a new ambitious North East Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) which aims to bring billions of pounds and many thousands of jobs to the North East.

The plan, drafted by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is an essential piece in the development of a North East agenda for growth. Produced with partners it sets out a clear vision and investment programme for the area, identifying key priorities and actions.

The final SEP will become the core of both the North East LEP’s bid to Government’s £2bn per annum Local Growth Fund, and programmes that will be funded for other local, national and European sources.

The vision set out in the North East Strategic Economic Plan is that “by 2030, the North East will be a globally competitive economy, with more and better jobs created through making, trading and innovating.”

To achieve the SEP’s vision, by 2024 the North East LEP intends to halve the gap between the North East and the national average (excluding London) on five key indicators: gross value added (GVA) per full time equivalent (FTE): private sector employment density: business density: employment rate and unemployment rate.

Lord Andrew Adonis, who chaired the North East Independent Economic Review, welcomes the progress of the North East SEP. He said: “The North East Strategic Economic Plan provides a fantastic opportunity for the North East economy to truly realise its potential. The first task for the North East is to agree this draft plan, and once approved, implement it. There is huge capacity for the region’s future success, with will, leadership and a clear plan for action. The plan will help the North East LEP area raise its performance and drive growth. “

Working with its business, local authority and voluntary sector partners, the North East LEP will bring direction and focus on economic growth across County Durham, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear through implementing the Strategic Economic Plan.

Paul Woolston, chair of the North East LEP said: “This long-term economic plan is vital for continued growth and productivity in the North East LEP area. We are looking to strike a new relationship with Government, working together with it and our local business, higher and further education, voluntary and public sector partners to deliver real growth for the North East, and contribute to UK economic prosperity.

“The Adonis Review and our European Structural and Investment Funds strategy underline the importance of shifting the emphasis from the national to the local, and how all of our partners are committed to making this happen.

“We have a strong track record in designing and taking forward innovative initiatives such as the Skills Incentives Pilot, our £38m allocation for the North East Investment Fund and the success of the North East Enterprise Zone. There is a real desire across the LEP area’s businesses, education and public sectors to be innovative, ambitious and integrated in our work. Through the Local Growth Fund we will be able to deliver on the SEP’s aims effectively and as quickly as possible.”

The SEP proposes a number of initiatives to boost enterprise, skills and infrastructure. An Entrepreneurs First £30m competition and two £25m catalytic innovation competitions will be introduced and there will be up to 25% increased investment in finance for SMEs, including an expanded JEREMIE programme.

Given backing from the Department of Education a North East Schools Challenge will be launched, and a £160m investment by the North East LEP and government in high level skills development over the next six years. A separate £160m ‘Inclusive North East’ project by the North East LEP and government will aim to eliminate gender, race, age and cultural gaps in employment between the North East LEP area and national averages by 2025.

In infrastructure, an international advanced manufacturing park, built around the Nissan campus at Washington is planned, and investment programmes totalling £650 over the next ten years to the A1 and A19 trunk roads, the Ashington-Blyth-Tyne rail line and to the East Coast Main Line (Leamside Line).

The draft North East SEP plan states: “We must also protect and capitalise on our natural and built heritage, developing our tourism offer, providing housing that is fit for purpose and attracting and retaining talent. In this global environment, there is new thinking about how regions like the North East can become more competitive and prosperous, driving smart, sustainable and inclusive economic outcomes.”

Consultation closes on Tuesday 25 February. Following the consultation period, the strategy will be finalised and presented to government.

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