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Chancellor must empower North-East firms
GEORGE Osborne can follow through on the Government's pledge to rebalance the economy by using his Budget to empower North-East business.
That is the message James Ramsbotham, the North East Chamber of Commerce chief executive has spelled out in a letter to The Chancellor ahead of Wednesdays Budget announcement.
The NECC chief urged Mr Osborne to back regional strengths in export and manufacturing to help the North-East deliver more for the UK, moving the economy away from over-reliance on financial services and the South East of England.
"With many predicting an unprecedented triple-dip recession, the Chancellor must take this opportunity to be bold and back businesses in the North-East to deliver more for the UK. Investment in the correct areas will provide regional firms with the stimulus to grow and help spearhead the UK economic recovery.
He added: "Given the strength of the manufacturing sector in the North-East and our excellent export performance, the rebalancing act will not only be of benefit to the North-East but will require our businesses to play a central role. The same firms are delivering jobs and wealth in very tough global trading conditions. The region is relying more than ever on these firms, and everyone has a huge stake in their success.
"With the North East's international trade success, low carbon expertise, and capacity for greater development, the UK will never achieve its full potential without this region playing a major part. As I have repeatedly stated, the North East economy is not a problem for the UK to solve; it is a vital asset which must be developed further."
Furthermore, the NECC submission urged for a robust response to the Heseltine Review, addressing his call for a relentless focus on growth.
It came as the government has announced it will accept most of former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine's plan to stimulate the economy. A report by the Conservative peer recommended devolving power to the English regions and setting up a single local growth fund to deal with skills, housing and transport. Ministers have accepted 81 of the 89 recommendations put forward.
Lord Heseltine was asked by David Cameron to look into ways of improving the economies of English cities other than London. This should include implementation of the proposal to create a single pot of cash for economic development that can be devolved to Local Enterprise Partnerships such as Tees Valley Unlimited and the NELEP.
What North-East bosses want from the Budget:
Rob Theakston, managing director of the Black Sheep Brewery in Masham, North Yorkshire: "The UK pays more than 40 per cent of the total EU duty bill while only consuming 13 per cent of the total beer volume. It is important for our industry to get a break from the Chancellor, after years of increases in duty. These perennial cost increases are not sustainable and without a change then we can expect to see more pubs going to the wall."
Peter Mapp, director of Mapp's Mortgage & Insurance based in Crook, County Durham said: "A stamp duty holiday for first time buyers would be welcomed and increasing the stamp duty limit would also help second and third time movers in the North-East."
David Nicholson, managing director of Nicholson's Transport, in Billingham: "We really need to see a cut in tax on fuel. I'm pleased to see the Road User Levy will now become law as for too long, European operators have been allowed to come over here and take advantage of our system without having to pay any levies.
"Approximately 80 per cent of our business is on North-East roads so if the levy is to be re-invested by the Government into transport infrastructure, it would be good to know it will be spent on our road network here in the region."