Against the very tough backdrop of yesterday’s Spending Round there are many positive announcements in today’s detail on capital spending, energy policy and devolution alongside a strong settlement for the NE LEP in the allocation of EU structural and cohesion funds.
The early announcement of the strike price for offshore wind is extremely welcome; we eagerly await the industry’s reaction and the further details promised for July. Strike prices for other forms of renewable energy will also prompt investment in the area and create opportunities for North East firms, our Universities and NAREC.
Resolving road bottlenecks on the A19 at Testos and Silverlink, confirmation of major schemes on the A1 and the promise of work on the remainder of the Western Bypass and the road north of Newcastle are all hugely important to our connection to national markets. A longer term funding perspective on road and rail projects – which for the North East must include the speed, resilience and frequency of service on the East Coast Mainline – is also very welcome and will allow for better planning and a longer view for strategic infrastructure.
The Single Local Growth Fund has a number of inter-related funding lines within it and it is important that these are brought to bear alongside other key investments in, for example, flood defence.
Paul Woolston, Chair of NE LEP said “The strategic role of the LEP as a forum to bring together private and public perspectives on our investment needs and make the most of our new-found flexibility and freedoms has been thrown into the spotlight. Working seamlessly with the Combined Authority and the business community the will be central to our future success. We are in a great position to do this with so many great ideas from the Adonis Review and ever growing capacity and sure-footedness in our joint working. Alongside a good settlement for science there really is something in this for the North East.”
Commenting on the €539.6m allocated to the North East LEP for the next round of EU structural funds Cllr Mick Henry, Chair of the LA7, said: “This allocation provides us with a real chance to make huge inroads in some of the ambitions that we all have for the area. These funds will be directed towards world class innovation, market-lead access to finance for small and medium sized companies, sustainable growth and improving our skills and the efficiency of our labour markets to achieve more inclusive growth. We are already undertaking a wide ranging discussion with our communities, partners and stakeholders in the region about these funds and the allocation will give extra impetus to that debate.”
The LEP awaits more detail on these funding opportunities which has been promised to follow shortly. The also LEP remains keen to look at opportunities to deliver for the region through other, non-financial, levers such as better regulation, co-commissioning budgets that are not fully devolved or working with national government agencies to further develop and deliver industrial strategy.