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A staged economic recovery plan prepared by the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group has secured region-wide support as leaders look to introduce measures that build confidence, stabilise the economy and help our businesses, sectors and places adapt to the ‘new normal’.

The Group, which comprises the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), North East and North of Tyne Combined Authorities, the CBI on behalf of business, North East Joint Transport Committee and regional universities, has joined forces to plot the economic recovery of the region.

Within the plan are key messages for Government about the support required by the region.

The phased approach retains the region’s ambition to deliver more and better jobs and positions support for its places at its core, whilst being realistic about the long-term impact that COVID-19 will have on the North East. As the plan is implemented, it will aim to build a greener, more productive and more inclusive economy, through investment in energy and environmental industries, life sciences and digital technologies and by supporting people to find jobs and develop their skills.

It is based on evidence drawn together through consultation with sectors and organisations from across the region, a process which will continue over time.

The plan considers the actions needed during the next six months as lockdown restrictions are released, the following period of up to eighteen months as the region adapts to living with COVID-19, and then longer-term recovery priorities.

It articulates how the Group will develop responses to specific challenges facing businesses, education, the workforce and communities. It also identifies how innovative approaches can positively impact the way services are delivered, people work and learn, and ensure support is provided for North East residents.

The recovery plan factors in the importance of new ways of working as businesses adapt to social distancing and personal protection and embed new working methods such as digitalisation which has been a key feature of the immediate response.

It recognises that supporting sectors will be important but that also a focus on towns and cities and transport will be critical to a positive economic response.

Andrew Hodgson, Chair of the North East LEP, said: “Mitigating and recovering from COVID-19 has become the greatest challenge of our time and the response from regional leaders has been nothing less than superb.

“The collaborative approach across the North East LEP, our Combined Authorities and the world of education and business has enabled us to quickly and thoroughly devise a framework for economic recovery which incorporates a set of practical issues and actions that are evolving in real time.

“The framework is underpinned by intelligence which is drawn together from sector insights and quantitative data and addresses the fact the recovery will be tentative and phased and that there will be shifting patterns of investment and economic activity.

“While people will be understandably anxious right now, we want them to know that the right steps are being taken at the right time to get the North East back on track and that regional leaders are determined to work together to plot a course through these challenges and to do the right things for businesses, residents and our communities. We want the North East to lead, not lag, the national recovery and everyone involved is 100% committed to making this happen.”

Sarah Glendinning, Regional Director for the CBI, said: “The recovery plan provides a roadmap for the future and identifies the building blocks needed to create a region that thrives.

“This plan restates our commitment to a strong, collaborative approach that allows us to deliver a unified voice to Government and secure greater devolved funding and powers.

“We are very aware that the impacts on specific sectors require a long-term response and we are fully focused on ensuring the plan delivers now and in the years ahead.”

Jane Robinson, who is Dean of Engagement and Place at Newcastle University, represents the region’s four universities within the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group. She said: “Universities contribute to the regional economy in a myriad of ways – as employers and educators and as links to the world – and at this time as the source of research and expertise to solve the challenges that COVID-19 is creating. We welcome this collaborative approach and are committed to strengthening our local partnerships to work with businesses and communities to bring this knowledge to bear on the region’s recovery.”

North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll said: “We’ve been hit hard by this crisis.  Our key workers have done us proud, and our communities have stepped up.  We need to act now to build a future that’s prosperous.

“We need jobs.  Good jobs with good wages.

“That means getting investment in offshore wind, a low-carbon transport system and affordable housing.  It means giving our youngsters the training they need.

“It means looking after the key-workers who’ve seen us through this crisis.  It means revitalising our high streets, supporting our established businesses, and nurturing new ones.  We’ve got everyone pulling together on this – businesses, councils, transport, health and education.

“That’s exactly the team we need to make our region prosper.”

Councillor Iain Malcolm, Chair of the North East Combined Authority, said: “The North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group is very aware that the impact of Coronavirus is different across cities, high streets, market towns and rural communities. As such, this recovery plan is designed to focus on our places and ensure that nowhere is left behind.

“This includes providing strong leadership right across our geographical patch, ensuring access to grants and other funding, mobilising health and social care, and engaging properly with all residents and business owners. We want people to be confident that their health, happiness and livelihoods are at the very centre of all this work.”

Councillor Martin Gannon, Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee Joint Transport Committee, said: “Our plan is to move to a green, healthy, dynamic and thriving North East and this collaborative approach will enable us to fast track the plans in place.

“We are united in our goal to deliver carbon-neutral transport, alongside appealing travel choices and a safe network, which everyone can benefit from.”

The economic response summary report can be found here.

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Victoria Sutherland