Meeting with adviser to Deputy Prime Minister

NECC, along with the Federation of Small Businesses, met adviser to the Deputy Prime Minister Conan Darcy today at Tees Valley Unlimited. The meeting covered structures for business support, with NECC urging simplification, better use of existing brands and no duplication with the private sector. We also discussed regional structures and the operation of LEPs. NECC took the opportunity to raise concerns about skills funding reform, energy policy and inward investment.

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Posted in Business Support Regional policy by ross.smith. No Comments

HS2 Visit to North East

NECC co-hosted a visit to the North East by HS2 yesterday, along with CBI North East. Alison Munro, Managing Director – Development, met with members in Newcastle and Stockton to discuss how the investment will affect the North East and supply chain opportunities for local firms. There is at present a surprising lack of registered interest from North East businesses in being part of the supply chain. A copy of her presentation can be seen here.

Issues raised by members included the need for complementary investment in existing lines including the East Coast Main Line, supply chain opportunities and the approach taken with top tier contractors, and training provision for the workforce required to deliver the project.

HS2 Supply Chain Conferences are due to be held in London on 17 October and Manchester on 23 October 2014. Details and registration are available here.

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Posted in Buy North East Transport by ross.smith. No Comments

Party Conferences 2014

NECC will be attending the three main party conferences this year, starting with Labour on Sunday, in order to promote policy messages on behalf of members to leading politicians and influencers. NECC, the Association of North East Councils and Northumbrian Water are jointly hosting fringe events at each conference under the title North East England: What’s in it for us, what’s in it for you? The events will present the strengths of the North East economy, and outline the policy changes we believe could help us contribute more to UK plc.

In addition, we will be taking part in events on the themes of exports and long-term growth with the British Chambers of Commerce, and holding a series of individual meetings with ministers, advisers and MPs. Further details on our events and policy messages are here.

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Scottish Independence Referendum Returns a ‘No’ Vote

Early this morning it was confirmed that the Scottish electorate had voted during 18 September, by a margin of roughly 55%, in favour of staying within a union with the rest of the United Kingdom.  A record level of voter registration was almost matched by a national voter turn-out of over 80%.

Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party, immediately acknowledged the legitimacy of the result and has now called for the three main Westminster parties to honour the pledges made regarding further devolution of powers to the Scottish executive.  The Prime Minister has subsequently committed to honouring these pledges in full as soon as possible.

The Prime Minister also acknowledged the need for greater fairness in the way regions and nations outside of Scotland are represented in the electoral system as well as in the way funding and power is controlled by the state. He announced the creation of a new Cabinet Committee which will begin a process seeking to clarify how UK regions and nations will achieve a more democratically sustainable settlement from Government with the potential for further powers leaving London on a greater scale than has been mooted previously at any point in the 300 year history of the United Kingdom.

In the meantime there are concerns, in particular in regions such as the North East of England, that an improved settlement for Scotland will further undermine the North East’s ability to compete on even terms whether in seeking to attract talent, investment or generate business growth.

Scotland is requesting greater control over fiscal policy, with powers to cut as well as raise taxes and NECC is concerned about the added advantage this will have over regions such as the North East – you can find our reaction to today’s ‘no’ result here.

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Core Cities conference

NECC attended a Core Cities conference on Friday, bringing together nine major cities outside London, including Newcastle. The focus of the event was to push for more devolution to cities, a debate that was brought into stark focus by the pledges being made in the event of a ‘no’ vote in the Scottish independence referendum. Former Goldman Sachs Asset Management chairman Jim O’Neill, now chairing the RSA’s Cities Growth Commission, claimed there is momentum in Whitehall for further devolution, but warned this would be tempered by the need to address the UK deficit.

Newcastle Council leader Nick Forbes was among the speakers, and he called for more joined-up budgets between public bodies within cities, longer financial settlements to allow better planning, and more accountability locally rather than back to Westminster,

NECC supports much of this approach, as there is a strong case that decisions on issues such as skills, welfare and transport could be better made locally than by central Government. However, this will place a heavy onus on local government to show they can use these powers effectively after past disappointments such as the Regional Funding Advice process on transport, where the region failed to take firm decisions on strategic schemes. One area that would raise concerns is mooted localisation of business rates – though the focus at the conference was on stimulating growth and jobs, past experience was of high business rates when they were under local control previously.

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Posted in Fiscal Newcastle Regional policy by ross.smith. No Comments