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Reaction to today’s ONS regional labour market statistics

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (North East LEP) Strategy and Policy Director, Richard Baker, has commented on today’s regional labour market statistics, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

“Today’s figures show that our economy remains fragile, despite a small amount of economic improvement since April.

There has been a large increase in unemployment in the North East region between June and August, which is extremely concerning – especially as we are faced with ongoing and tightened restrictions over the coming months.

The North East region including the North East LEP and the Tees Valley LEP areas, now has the highest unemployment rate of the English regions at 6.6 percent and we are seeing this follow through to more people in our region claiming unemployment-related benefits.

Our businesses continue to work hard to keep their teams together, but we are faced with a stop-start recovery, where ongoing support will be critical, for business. We welcome government’s decision extend the support available to the economy. We will be monitoring its impact closely as we move into the winter.

“Strategic leadership and a strong partnership with government is more critical than ever – we need to ensure that support for businesses is reflective of the need of our region.”



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Funding available to support voluntary, community and social enterprise projects in the North East

A new fund is being launched by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) to support voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) projects in the wake of COVID-19.

A report published in May this year by Voluntary Organisations’ Network North East (VONNE) showed that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the VCSE sector, with 13% of organisations surveyed at the time anticipating they might close. Across the 7,200 VCSE organisations in the North East, that could mean more than 900 closures.

Carol Botten, CEO of VONNE, and North East LEP board member, said: “As well as delivering vital services for communities across the North East, these VCSE organisations are a fundamental part of the North East economy. And we know that collaboration across all sectors, including the VCSE sector, will be key as we work together to deliver the region’s phased recovery plan which we hope will lead us towards a long-term recovery for communities and businesses in the North East.

“We hope to attract creative and collaborative applications to this fund, that engage young people, or that deliver opportunities for communities to engage in a green economic recovery. For example, the fund could support the creation of outdoor recreational spaces like small ‘pocket parks’, a community woodland, or cycle paths; or the creation of space for local enterprise in a village hall.”

Up to eight awards will be made for grants of between £50,000 and £150,000, and organisations can find out more and make an application here.

Grant awards will support either:

  • New or enhanced community facilities that support the health and economic well-being of young people, particularly those aged 16-24 and from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • Improve, through green infrastructure projects our urban or rural environments, making connections to education, vocational learning, and employment opportunities through paid or voluntary positions.

This new local scheme complements other, national initiatives to support investment and recovery in the VCSE sector such as : the government’s recently-announced Green Recovery Challenge Fund is aimed at charities and environmental organisations to help them deliver local environmental projects, and details can be found here. And the National Lottery Community Fund is distributing government funding to support organisations to continue delivering services to people and communities affected by COVID-19 – more details are available here.

Find out more about the Capital Grant Programme for VCSE organisations here.

Notes to Editors:

The Local Growth Fund is supporting major capital investments to promote innovation, economic and skills infrastructure and sustainable transport as part of the North East Growth Deal.

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is a public, private, and education sector partnership that covers Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Sunderland local authority areas.

The £270.4m Local Growth Fund, secured as part of the North East Growth Deal, supports the North East LEP’s delivery of the Strategic Economic Plan, which aims to create 100,000 more and better jobs by 2024.


About the Local Growth Fund:

Local Enterprise Partnerships are playing a vital role in driving forward economic growth across the country, helping to build a country that works for everyone.

That’s why by 2021 Government will have invested over £12bn through the Local Growth Fund, allowing LEPs to use their local knowledge to get all areas of the country firing on all cylinders.

Analysis has shown that every £1 of Local Growth Fund invested could generate £4.81 in benefits.


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Lucy Winskell OBE, Chair, North East LEP – statement on local restrictions

“This Friday new restrictions will come into force across County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, Northumberland, North Tyneside, Sunderland and South Tyneside in a bid to halt the increase in COVID-19. We’d like to thank the seven Local Authorities involved for their strong and united leadership as we work together to protect public health and the local economy.

“We know that the majority of people have been enjoying the relative freedom since lockdown both carefully and responsibly and with the safety of their loved ones, colleagues and our key workers in mind. However, where the rules aren’t followed, it significantly increases the opportunity for Coronavirus to spread, which is why cases are now rising at an unacceptable rate.

“The latest restrictions are designed to achieve a dual aim: to keep businesses open while enabling people to still work and socialise safely, but if we are unable to nip this in the bud, a full lockdown will result. Let’s all of us do everything we can to avoid this.

“Please read the latest guidance and ensure your business and households are following the latest guidance.

“Here at the North East LEP we fully support these new measures and will continue to work with our Local Authorities to do everything it takes to protect health and keep the regional economy moving.

“We continue to listen carefully to the business community to provide the support necessary during these challenging times. We are in constant communication with government and continue to lobby for the Job Retention Scheme to be extended beyond October for businesses whose trade has been disrupted by local restrictions, for flexibilities to be introduced to existing response measures designed to alleviate cash flow pressures, such as businesses being able to top up Bounce Back Loans and, for time to pay arrangements via HMRC to be kept in place and the reintroduction of cash grants to affected businesses.

“We and all our regional leaders are doing everything we can to manage this difficult situation. Introducing these important measures will mitigate any further impact on our health, our hospitals and on the economy, which is what this region needs right now.”


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In conversation with Lucy Winskell OBE as she takes up her role as Chair of the Board

The position of Chair of the North East LEP was always going to be daunting, not least with big shoes to fill following my predecessor Andrew Hodgson’s outstanding tenure.

The good news is that I step into the role at an organisation which is in excellent shape despite the best efforts of COVID-19. This is thanks to Andrew Hodgson, a strong and committed board that has a real breadth and depth of experience, and an executive team so ably led by Chief Executive, Helen Golightly.

Few people would argue that the current climate represents a time of real challenge, but as it’s been said many times before, challenge brings opportunity and I know this region thrives on adversity and making things happen.

So for me, this is a time of potential in which we have to address the severity of the situation left by COVID-19, while finding a new path forward that allows us to build a region that suits our needs and creates competitive advantage as we move into the future.

The North East LEP’s Strategic Economic Plan is a great place to start. This continues to provide us with the blueprint needed to create 100,000 more and better jobs by 2024.

The Coronavirus pandemic may have radically changed the labour market and the overall economy, meaning we have a lot further to go to reach our targets – but we have the right data and understanding to inform our decision-making and shape a more accurate narrative about the North East.

We have a plan that takes into consideration how the region has been impacted by COVID-19 and, working with government, it’s a plan which is focused on the interventions that will help the North East thrive and ensure no one is left behind.

I’m proud that the North East LEP, in collaboration with the North of Tyne and North East Combined Authorities, the CBI on behalf of business, and wider partners, launched the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group to implement a five-point plan to support the economy, build resilience and prepare for recovery. This has enabled us to help businesses stay operational, keep people in employment, collaborate to find solutions to new challenges and use our collective voice and influence with government.

Partnership working remains a key priority for the North East LEP – it is the way we will successfully secure new opportunities and find solutions to the longer-term, endemic issues facing the region.

COVID-19 may have taken us further away from the goals in the Strategic Economic Plan, but now is the time to do exactly what the North East does best.

We will go again, with ambition and determination, just as before. Please watch this video, which tells the story much better than I can. I’m inspired by it and I hope you will be too.


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North East Local Enterprise Partnership reaction to ONS September regional labour market statistics

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (North East LEP) Strategy and Policy Director, Richard Baker, has commented on today’s regional labour market statistics, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

“From the range of labour market data released today, combined with last week’s GDP data, we can see that the economy remains very fragile and that ongoing intervention continues to support employment and promote stimulus.

“Whilst the official level of unemployment in the North East region in May to July remains unchanged compared to the previous quarter, the ONS out-work benefit claimant count shows that the number of claimants in the North East LEP area increased by over 36,000 between mid-March and mid-August, about 7.3% of the working age population

“From UK data about hours worked and last week’s GDP data we can see that there has been some slow growth through July, however, GDP in July remains 11.7% lower than in February.

“Looking forward, national data suggests that about 16% of employees were still furloughed in August.

“We expect next month’s data will give us a clearer indication of how the economy is performing after the summer stimulus package and as the Job Retention Scheme winds down. However, it is clear this is going to be a stop-start recovery with the economy needing ongoing government and regional support.

“The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), CBI, North of Tyne and North East Combined Authorities have come together, with the support of industry, to form the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group. We have supported the North East economy through the immediate impact of the response to COVID-19 and we are working to develop a comprehensive investment plan for the North East to ensure our region comes back stronger, greener and more inclusive than ever.”

The North East Growth Hub is working hard to ensure businesses have access to all the latest information, guidance and support regarding Covid-19. This can be viewed here: https://www.northeastgrowthhub.co.uk/toolkits/covid-19-coronavirus-toolkit


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North East LEP appoints Lucy Winskell OBE as Chair

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) has announced the appointment of Lucy Winskell OBE as Chair of its Board. She replaces Andrew Hodgson OBE, who has held the role for the last four years.

The North East LEP is one of 38 in the country and sets the economic agenda for the region to promote and develop economic growth across the North East. Its geographic patch covers the local authority areas of County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland.

Lucy Winskell is Pro Vice-Chancellor (Employability & Partnerships) at Northumbria University.

She has been a member of the Executive team at Northumbria University since 2010, having made the transition into higher education following a 28-year career as a litigation lawyer.

Lucy’s non-executive career has been focussed on economic growth and regeneration within the North East.

Her regional roles have included Board Member of the North East Regional Investment Fund and North East Access to Finance (both supporting SME growth); non-executive Director of Government Office North East; Chair of the North East Industrial Development Board; Board Member of ING; Vice Chair of BE Group and a Member of CBI Regional Council.

Lucy has been Chair of the Board of the North East England Chamber of Commerce (NEECC) for six years and will stand down from this role shortly.

She has also been a strong advocate for the region at a national level. As a member of Arts and Humanities Research Council she highlighted the importance of the cultural and creative sector in a regional economy, and as Vice Chair of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) she has ensured a regional voice forms part of BCC’s lobbying and policy work.

Lucy is a long-time supporter of the North East LEP. She contributed to the Adonis Review as a panellist at its launch in 2013 and was also involved in the creation of the Strategic Economic Plan and its refresh. She represented the four North East Universities on the Business Growth Board.

Well-regarded regionally, Lucy has chaired the judging panel for the Journal’s North East Business Executive of the Year Awards for the last five years, steering the panel to celebrate leadership in emerging new sectors. She has appeared in the Journal’s ‘Most Influential’ every year since its inception.

Lucy Winskell OBE said: “Having supported the work of the North East LEP since its inception, I am delighted to be appointed Chair of the Board.

“Andrew Hodgson leaves a fantastic legacy and I’m looking forward to building on his work to date. It’s a privilege to work with the Board, the Executive and the LEP’s stakeholders, both regionally and nationally, to contribute to the successful delivery of the Strategic Economic Plan.

“Given the significant challenges currently presented by COVID-19, it is vitally important that we formulate a cohesive response centred on the creativity, innovation and entrepreneurism that our region excels at.

“Collaboration and partnership working has never been more important than now. My priority will be to support the Chief Executive and her team, and work with our Board and partners, both regionally and nationally to ensure the North East emerges stronger and more resilient, as well as a more sustainable and equitable region to live, learn and work.”

Andrew Hodgson OBE commented: “Pre-COVID-19 we had achieved base camp, with steady progress in terms of regional employment figures, our ambition to create more and better jobs, and the highest amount of foreign inward investment outside of London.

“Now what we need is continuity, new energy and focus and Lucy offers all of these and more. I know she’ll bring her significant experience to bear as government devolves more responsibility to the regions to make sure great things happen for the North East.”

Professor Andrew Wathey CBE, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, added: “I congratulate Lucy warmly on her appointment. Lucy brings deep local knowledge to the role, as well as extensive experience of both the business and higher education sectors, which will be widely welcomed. Her appointment will strengthen the bonds between the HE and business communities of the North East and will help to build a valuable mutual understanding.”

Mayor Jamie Driscoll said: “Lucy knows our region inside out. She has a formidable track record and brings with her a wealth of expertise and experience. There’s an opportunity here to pull together as a region so we emerge from COVID stronger and more resilient.

“Lucy gets that. It’s a privilege to welcome her to the job.”

Councillor Iain Malcolm, Chair of the North East Combined Authority, said: “Lucy is already a fantastic ambassador for the North East and brings both influence and experience to a key role for the region. We look forward to working with her to achieve our joint bold ambition for more and better jobs for everyone.”

Heidi Mottram, Vice Chair of the North East LEP’s Board and the CEO of Northumbrian Water, said: “Lucy is a talented and dedicated Chair who brings a wealth of experience to the position.She has a highly impressive track record and strong credibility in the eyes of the North East community.

“Lucy will be a fantastic advocate for the North East across the Northern Powerhouse area and UK and we are thrilled to welcome her to the Board.”




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North East LEP reaction to ONS regional labour market statistics

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (North East LEP) Strategy and Policy Director, Richard Baker, has commented on today’s regional labour market statistics, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

“Whilst today’s employment data continues to be dominated by the impact of the furlough scheme which is working to protect North East employment levels during this period, the data also shows the impact of declining levels of economic activity in the region, and risks for the future as the job retention scheme is phased out are also becoming clearer.

“The latest HMRC statistics show that 30% of workers in the North East LEP area that were eligible for furlough were being supported by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) by the end of June 2020. In addition, 76% of the eligible self-employed had claimed Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grants by that date. The take up rates have been similar to those for England and in total over 300,000 North East workers were supported by the end of June.

“Other data is beginning to show the impact of COVID-19 with a decline in earnings, increases in claims for universal credit and estimates of growth of unemployment benefits:

  • In the PAYE Real Time Information, median monthly pay in the North East region in the three months to June was 2.3% lower than in the three months to March. This was the fourth largest percentage decrease among the nine English regions.
  • The number of Universal Credit claimants in the North East LEP area has increased by over 70,000 (57%) between mid-March and mid-July. This benefit provides additional income for low paid workers as well as supporting those seeking employment and those unable to work due to sickness or caring responsibilities. In March, less than a third of claimants had been claiming for fewer than six months but, by mid-July, this had increased to almost a half. Overall the number of North East claimants had increased by a smaller percentage than in England as a whole (up 86%).
  • Today’s ONS estimate of the number of unemployment benefit claimants shows a rise of just under 36,000 (65%) between mid-March and mid-July in the North East LEP area. This compares with an increase across England of114%. As with Universal Credit, the percentage change in the North East was similar in all working-age groups, but highest among those aged 45 to 49 and 50 to 54 (up 70% and 68%, respectively).
  • Nationally ONS indicators suggest that the number of employees in the UK is down around 730,000 compared with March 2020. It highlights that the quarterly decrease in UK employment was particularly driven by decreases in the numbers of workers aged 65 years and over, self-employed and part-time workers.

“These trends are aligned with the reports from the Bank of England which showed a 21% decline in GDP in this quarter. Whilst in other reports, there is some suggestion that vacancies are beginning to grow slowly they have some way to go to return to levels from before Covid. It is important that support continues to be given to the labour market in the short term and that action is taken to stimulate the economy.

“The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), CBI, North of Tyne and North East Combined Authorities have come together, with the support of industry, to form the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group to provide maximum support for businesses in the immediate term and to plan for long-term economic recovery following the COVID-19 outbreak and to ensure the region has strong and collaborative economic leadership as we work through the impacts of the measures introduced to slow the spread of the virus.

“By coordinating one response to the current economic crisis, we will use one voice and our collective influence to reassure the North East public, deliver crucial interventions and lobby Government.”

The North East Growth Hub is working hard to ensure businesses have access to all the latest information, guidance and support regarding Covid-19. This can be viewed here: https://www.northeastgrowthhub.co.uk/toolkits/covid-19-coronavirus-toolkit

Business are also being asked to complete this short survey to help us understand what support is needed and feed this back to government: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/COVID19_Business_Survey


Notes to editors

About the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP)

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) is a public, private, education and voluntary sector partnership that covers Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Sunderland local authority areas.






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The impact of COVID-19 on the North East voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector – In conversation with Board member, Carol Botten

Carol Botten CEO of VONNE who sits on the Board of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership as the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector representative shares some of the insights on a report published by VONNE in May on the impact of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic on the North East VCSE sector from the 400+ responses they received to their latest survey.

The report analysis is sobering, revealing that a third of organisations expect to lose more than half their quarterly income between April and June this year, which equates to between £75m and £223m of income lost.  40% of organisations have under 3 months of running costs in their reserves and 13% anticipate they might close.  Across the 7,200 VCSE organisations in the North East that could mean 900+ closures.

In addition, the report has revealed that the VCSE sector’s capacity is severely limited, with 53 per cent of the region’s workforce not currently operational, and 75 per cent of volunteers unable to support their organisations. Not only that, but longer-term expectations are that average staffing levels will reduce by 37% due to lost income, potentially 13,000-14,000 redundancies across the sector.

All of this means that almost 400,000 individuals are no longer receiving, or are receiving a significantly reduced service from the 269 VCSE survey respondents that support them.   If this is aggregated against the 7,200 VCSE organisations that operate across the North East region, the total figure is likely to be staggering.  Those hardest hit include children and young people, older people, and individuals with disabilities, including learning disabilities.

Although some of the findings make for grim reading, positives have also been identified. A third of organisations have secured emergency funding to support them through Covid-19, almost two thirds of those surveyed praised funders for their response to the crisis, and their flexibility with regards to the support offered, while 73 per cent said they’d identified positive impacts, most notably, a move to more collaborative working between organisations, including local authorities as well as those in the sector.

As the umbrella body for the sector across the North East VONNE are so proud of the determination, flexibility and resilience of organisations as the situation has developed, but the fact is the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the associated impact of lockdown and social distancing measures, are likely to be felt for a long time to come.

This is not only due to the reduction in organisational capacity and income across the sector, but also the increased demand for services created both directly and indirectly, due to the societal impact on health and wellbeing, poverty and debt, and levels of unemployment.

The sector needs clarity and practical advice in the short, medium and longer term across a number of key areas, and this support must be flexible, responsive and tailored to recognise the range of impacting factors.

But uncertainty and rapid change are likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Long-term thinking is required, and organisations, including funders, commissioners and support agencies, must ensure they’re geared up to respond and flex to emerging needs.

You can read a summary of the report here.

You can download the full report at vonne.org.uk/news/ne-vcse-sector-covid-19-impact-survey-report-published

If you want to support local VCSE organisations we would recommend that you donate to the Covid Response & Recovery Funds held by the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland and County Durham Community Foundation who are making grants to local organisations across the North East Local Enterprise Partnership area.




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North East awarded £47m from government to invest in local infrastructure projects

The North East has been awarded up to £47m from government’s Getting Building Fund to start local infrastructure projects that will help the region recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Part of government’s ‘New Deal’ that will deliver jobs, skills and infrastructure for Britain, the funding will be spent on ‘shovel ready’ projects that can be delivered in the next 18 months.

Andrew Hodgson, Chair of the North East LEP, said: “This is welcome news from government and demonstrates they have been listening to our region’s collective call for significant investment to help businesses and the economy recover from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We will now work closely with the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government to ensure the portfolio of projects are delivered on time and fuel the North East’s economic response to the pandemic.”

Mayor Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne Combined Authority, said: “Our economy needs a boost. This £47 million will help us create the local, high-quality jobs we need. The future is in low-carbon industries, like offshore wind and electric vehicles. We’ll be investing in projects that will bring work to the North East.”

Cllr Iain Malcolm, Chair of the North East Combined Authority, said: “This new funding is a welcome step forward as we move ahead with infrastructure plans that will allow our residents and businesses to not just recover but thrive post-COVID-19. The move will drive growth and productivity, both of which are needed right now.”

The Getting Building Fund forms part of government’s New Deal for Britain, announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. It sets out government’s strategy to rebuild Britain and fuel economic recovery across the UK.

£5bn of the £640bn government plans to spend on capital investment projects over the next five years has been brought forward with £900m being allocated to a range of ‘shovel ready’ local growth projects in England over the course of this year and next. The funding will enable local areas to invest in priority infrastructure projects to drive local growth and jobs.