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Colin Bell, Business Growth Director, explains how the North East Growth Hub is working to reduce the impact of Coronavirus on our regional businesses

Right now is a time of anxiety for many people and business owners due to the impact of Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

Here at the North East Growth Hub we are geared up to provide as much support as we can – and working hard to do more.

Right now, our focus is on updating the North East Growth Hub Coronavirus toolkit so you have access to the very latest information, as well as providing direct one to one support to businesses to help them navigate the measures Government are putting in place.

This includes details of the latest financial support and how to prevent the spread of COVID-19, through to managing remote working and knowing your employees’ rights.

We are also working closely with our partners in local and national Government, academia and the private and third sectors to mobilise a combined response which puts your needs at the heart of all activity and ensures one voice and message is heard by Government.

This collaborative approach includes our Local Authorities and the North East Combined Authority, as well as membership organisations such as the CBI, FSB, Dynamo, Developing Consensus, Make, Entrepreneurs’ Forum and more.

How you can play your part

At this uncertain time, everyone has a role to play. Please help us develop our response by letting us know what you need.

Right now, we need to understand exactly what is impacting your business so we can share this with the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to help them inform the measures put in place and improve the support offered.

You can do this by completing this short survey here.

In it together

The North East is known for its collaborative spirit and resilience. Please be assured the North East LEP will continue to lead from the front and share valuable information so you can do what you can to keep your business moving forward and protect employees.

Please do use the North East Growth Hub toolkit, fill in the survey and if needed, make a one to one virtual appointment with one of our Connectors. We are here to help.

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

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (North East LEP’s) Senior Economist, Victoria Sutherland, has commented on today’s regional labour market statistics, released by the Office for National Statistics.

The data covers both the North East LEP and Tees Valley LEP areas and covers the period from November 2019 to January 2020.

“Employment has increased by 9,000 over the last quarter.  However, due to more difficult conditions in the early months of 2019, there are 12,000 fewer people in employment than a year ago.

“Unemployment has increased by 1,000 over the last three months and by 15,000 over the year.

“Whilst todays statistics are important, we must acknowledge the current economic position we are in. Moving forward we know that COVID-19 and the measures that are being taken to prevent its spread will have a significant impact on our economy.

“We are working very closely with government to monitor the impacts on the North East and to ensure our businesses get the advice and support they need at this time.

“Business are 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

“The North East Growth Hub is working hard to ensure businesses have access to all of 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 Budget 2020 reaction

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.”


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North East LEP appoints three new members to its Board

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) has announced three new appointments to its Board.

Founder and MD for Fusion PR Creative, John McCabe, and TSG Marine Operations Director, Erika Leadbeater, replace outgoing Board members David Land and Farooq Hakim. Carol Botten, Chief Executive of VONNE (Voluntary Organisations’ Network North East) also joins the North East LEP Board to ensure the region’s voluntary, community and social enterprise sector (VCSE) is better represented.

Andrew Hodgson, Chair of the North East LEP said: “As well as playing an active role in helping deliver the North East Strategic Economic Plan, our Board represents the views and opinions of the North East’s public, private, education and VCSE sectors.

“They help ensure we work in the best interest of the region and deliver our aim of creating 100,000 more and better jobs by 2024.

“On behalf of everyone at the North East LEP, I’d like to welcome Erika, Carol and John to the Board. They are all hugely respected in their fields and their contribution to our work in growing the North East economy will be invaluable.”

John McCabe is the current chair of Gateshead College and immediate past president of the North East England Chamber of Commerce. He has held senior positions at some of the North East’s largest organisations and launched strategic communications agency, Fusion, in 2013.

John said: “I hope my experience of working in and with businesses large and small, of setting up my own business and of negotiating at the highest levels of government will be of value to colleagues across the North East LEP and to the wider region.

“The new government has made a number of eye-catching commitments to our region and the North East LEP will have a key role to play in ensuring these are met, enabling economic growth and ensuring more people in the North East can achieve their full potential.

“The North East LEP has an exciting agenda and I’m really looking forward to playing my part in its delivery.”

Erika Leadbeater is Operations Director at South Tyneside-based TSG Marine, which delivers marine access services to the offshore energy sector. Erika began her career as a private practice solicitor specialising in shipping and the carriage of goods before joining TSG Marine in 2013. Erika is an advocate for small businesses and a member of the UK Government’s SME Advisory Board.

Erika said: “I know from experience that the North East is a great place to live and work. In fact, when our business was getting started, we chose to base ourselves in the region due to its strategic location, the skills of local people and the support for small businesses. I am honoured to be joining the team at the North East LEP to support the great work being undertaken to grow the economy, create jobs and promote the region.”

Carol Botten has been CEO of VONNE since September 2018 following four years as Deputy CEO. With almost 25 years’ experience in the voluntary and community sector, Carol is passionate about supporting the sector’s leadership and governance capabilities and developing new programmes and projects to increase organisations’ sustainability and resilience.

She is a member of the North East Skills Advisory Panel, as well as a member of Northern Powergrid’s Social Issues Expert Group and Stakeholder Panel, the North East Brexit Group and the Cabinet Office’s National Leadership programme.

Carol said: “I am delighted to have been selected to represent the VCSE sector on the North East Local Enterprise Partnership Board.

“I have worked closely with the organisation for a number of years as a member of the Skills Advisory Panel and on recent refreshes of the North East Strategic Economic Plan, so I have a strong understanding of the LEP, its role and key strategies for the region.

“I look forward to developing that relationship further and advocating for the role that VCSE organisations have to play in the economic development of the region and to encourage an inclusive approach, to ensure all communities and individuals can benefit from economic development activities.”

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) is a public, private and education sector partnership that works with businesses, partners and stakeholders in the region to deliver the North East Strategic Economic Plan, growing a more productive, inclusive and sustainable regional economy.

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North East Local Enterprise Partnership seeks digital partner… In conversation with Jen Robson, Head of Communications

As a public, private and education partnership set up to drive forward economic growth in the region, having an integrated communications strategy is key to the success of the North East LEP.

Digital communications forms a central part of our strategy. We are about to embark on a procurement process to find a partner who can work with us  to deliver best practice digital communications that raises the bar and delivers our objectives. We have a clear ambition for our websites and take evaluation and insight seriously. The world in which we operate can be pretty unique – it’s fast paced, often with a high volume of actions with short deadlines – something we dream will settle, but never quite seems to.

Over the years, we’ve learnt that having an agency, that has a variety of digital-specific, inhouse services and skills, where ideas can be shared, solutions can be found and delivery can be responsive, is critical to achieving our goals.  That’s why we’re looking for a supplier who can deliver all of the following services:

  • Digital and marketing consultancy and strategy
  • Creative, web and UX design
  • Web development
  • Content production including creative, copy and film
  • Digital marketing
  • Website management and maintenance
  • Website hosting
  • Analytics, evaluation of website and digital marketing activities.

The official procurement process will start in November, but we are keen to meet potential partners and share information about our strategies, platforms and ambitions at a ‘Meet the Buyer’ pre-procurement event on Friday 25 October from 10am until 3pm at The Crowne Plaza in Newcastle.

You’ll hear from the team and a former supplier so that you can understand our requirements and what it’s like to work with us – warts and all – before you start with the paperwork. There’ll be an opportunity for question and answers and one-to-ones. It’s a chance to help shape the next steps in our procurement exercise so what we’re asking for is in line with what you can deliver.

Full details of the event are on the NEPO Portal so please do make sure you are registered at www.NEPO.org to access all the information. Hope to see you there.



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North East Brexit Group initiates project to plan Free Zone for the North East

By Richard Baker, Head of Strategy and Policy, North East LEP

In its role as the facilitator of the North East Brexit Group[1], and working with infrastructure and logistics organisations including the Ports of Tyne, Blyth and Sunderland, the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has announced that it will commission work to develop a detailed proposal for a Free Zone for the North East LEP area.

It is seeking to identify a contractor who could support the Brexit Group to develop the plan which is ready for the Autumn at a time when Brexit preparations are being stepped up.

Free Zones exist in many regions of the world to facilitate frictionless trade, enabling areas to establish, develop and maintain competitive trade arrangements which can deliver new investment and create jobs. In its Maritime 2050[2] report, the Government has set out a plan to consider the creation of a network of Free Ports across the UK in consultation with logistics and manufacturing sectors. The new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has spoken of his support for this plan.

As the UK leaves the European Union, work to understand options to facilitate frictionless trade in the region has been a key strand of the work programme of the Brexit Group given the importance of integrated supply chains and international export markets in the region. Work has already been completed which has examined the legal frameworks and economic issues around Free Ports and Free Zones, and to consult on options with regional businesses and ports in the particular context of the North East economy.

The work identified how the outcome of the Brexit process could have a significant impact on the free flow of goods into the region if it resulted in departure from the EU Customs Union. It could mean that any single shipment arriving to or departing from the UK will require a Customs declaration, a change which will affect UK companies and HMRC alike. Businesses who were involved in the project highlighted that this would require an increase in the resources deployed and costs for both the private sector and the UK Government.

A significant number of companies in the UK trade within the European Union, and few have prior experience in managing Customs processes and procedures. In addition, many North East businesses operate integrated European supply chains, with components crossing the UK-EU border repeatedly before final export of finished goods. Departure from the Customs Union would mean that it is likely that many of the imports and exports from the EU will be subject to duty in the UK for first time in over forty years.

The previous work concluded that a digitally enabled Free Zone, which utilises both physical and digital mechanisms to insulate trade from these costs and regulatory friction which could be caused by exiting the EU customs union, could deliver a positive economic impact for the region. It would shelter existing trading relationships from additional costs and regulation created by EU Exit, and potentially create competitive advantages for the future for the region in attraction of further trade, investment and jobs.

The aim of this work is therefore to build a detailed proposal for a Free Zone in the North East which can facilitate current and future trade linkages for North East business, and provide a competitive opportunity for the region in the future by demonstrating that the North East remains open for business and investment.

Contractors interested in making a proposal for this project can find out more here. Use reference number DN425189 or the title ‘Develop a Proposition to Support Trade Facilitation through a North East Free Port and Digitally Enabled Free Trade Zones’.


Please note, this opportunity has a revised tender specification which is available via NEPO.



[1] Consisting of representatives from: The North East LEP, NECA, NTCA, CBI, NEECC, FSB, EEF, Entrepreneurs Forum, Universities, Colleges, TUC, VCS, MHCLG/BEIS Local Growth Unit.

[2] Maritime 2050 Navigating the Future (2019); Department for Transport

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Four new European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) calls open

Four new European Regional Development Fund opportunities have opened in the North East LEP area.

PA1 – Promoting Research and Innovation

PA3 – SME Support – Enhancing the Competitiveness of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises

PA4 – Supporting the shift towards a Low Carbon Economy in all Sectors

PA5 – Promoting climate change adaptation, risk prevention and management.

An information event is being held on 11 July 2019. Anyone interested in learning more about the opportunities above and the support available during the application process, can register to attend this event here.


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North East LEP ONS Regional Labour Market Statistics

North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Senior Economist Victoria Sutherland gave her reaction to today’s regional labour market statistics.

“We are disappointed to see that today’s labour market statistics show that employment has fallen across the North East region, including Tees Valley.

“Employment has declined by 5,000 over the last quarter and 26,000 over the year.

“In addition, whilst unemployment has remained stable over the last quarter, it has increased by 7,000 over the last year.

“There has also been a rise in those that are outside the labour market, for example, because they are studying, looking after children or due to ill health.

“These trends are particularly disappointing given that the region had made significant progress in last few years.

“The number of men in employment has increased slightly over both the quarter and year, meaning the decline in employment reflects a fall in the number of women in work. In total, 23,000 women have left the labour market in the North East the last 12 months. Going forward, it will be important to understand what is driving these trends.

“The North East LEP will continue to work with partners across the region to deliver the Strategic Economic Plan and its goal to deliver 100,000 more jobs by 2024 and to ensure the provision is in place to help residents progress towards, and into, available employment opportunities.”



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North East LEP ONS Labour Market Statistics Reaction – March 2019

North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Senior Economist Victoria Sutherland gave her reaction to today’s regional labour market statistics.

“We are pleased to see today’s statistics have positive news for the North East.

“Across the region, employment has increased by 7,000 over the quarter. Unemployment has fallen by 4,000 over the same period. This decline means the unemployment rate is now 5.1%, compared to 5.4% three months ago.

“Today’s statistics are particularly welcome as they suggest that the increases in unemployment and decreases in employment we saw in mid-2018 are being reversed.

“Whilst these are positive results, there continues to be significant uncertainty in the economy making planning for the future challenging for businesses.”

The North East LEP will continue to work with its partners to support businesses to grow and deliver more and better jobs for the region.