The North East economy is front and centre of Government investment this week aimed at capitalising on our industrial strengths and building our infrastructure.
A series of announcements to coincide with the Government’s Cabinet meeting at the Sage Gateshead brings the prospect of new high quality jobs in the energy sector, faster more frequent journeys on the East Coast Main Line and extra funding and responsibilities for Local Enterprise Partnerships to help drive regional economic growth.
It represents a real vote of confidence in the North East and the course of action it is pursuing to create 100,000 more and better jobs by 2024 through investment into sectors of high business growth opportunity.
The Government announcements recognise the pioneering work being carried out in the North East to embed innovation into our economy.
The Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult at Blyth will benefit from part of a £180m funding package over the next five years to bolster its cutting edge research and development activity.
The energy sector is a real North East success story and the North East LEP has just appointed Andrew Clark to lead work in this sector to help maximise its potential.
His knowledge and expertise as sector programme lead will be invaluable in bringing together public and private sector organisations to create a far reaching energy strategy.
A commitment by Government to invest £780m into major upgrades on the East Coast Main Line – to be completed by the early 2020s – is a great first step in giving passengers faster, more frequent journeys, which is in turn great news for new and existing businesses through improved connectivity to markets.
Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, also announced that the North East is among six areas around the country being asked to develop local industrial strategies to create more opportunities and growth.
The national LEP Review was also published on Tuesday which is a welcome move by Government. It provides clarity on the role of LEPs going forward and reinforces the benefits of a strong business voice in leading strategic economic policy and investments. Government are making available an extra £20m to LEPs to help deliver these roles including the new local industrial strategies.
The fact that these strategies will be developed across LEP areas is extremely positive and will support the on-going delivery of the Strategic Economic Plan.
The North East LEP is recognised by ministers as a strong LEP and we are well positioned to meet the roles and opportunities set out in the review.
The Government also confirmed it has laid legislation in Parliament to make the £600m North of Tyne Devolution Deal a reality and the LEP is fully supportive of devolution in the North East in order to bring more local powers and decision making to the region.
However, it is also very important to note that the North East LEP remains committed to working with all seven local authorities to deliver the Strategic Economic Plan with the goal of creating more and better jobs across the region, and to develop the new local industry strategy together for the region.