Send us your pictures, video, news and views by texting NORTHERN ECHO to 80360 or email us
More should be done for region’s economy
As the party political conference bandwagon continues across the UK, ministersare busily unveiling their visions for the country’s future. Deputy Business Editor Steven Hugill asked leading North-East business figures for their views on where the three main parties should focus
BUSINESS bosses have today united to demand ministers listen to the North- East and galvanise the region.
Leaders are calling for new measures to create more jobs and help businesses grow.
They want renewed backing for the region’s two airports, major reforms on bank lending and business rates, and help for a flagship energy project, which could create 1,250 jobs.
The group also wants fresh support for North-East construction firms that were battered by spending cuts costing thousands of regional jobs and forced scores of contractors and suppliers out of business.
Yesterday, Labour leader Ed Miliband pledged to build one million homes by 2020 in his General Election manifesto.
James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce, highlighted the removal of air passenger duty as one key factor to make the region more accessible for businesses.
He also called for greater backing for the Teesside carbon capture and storage project (CCS), rejected by the Government earlier this year.
The CCS project allows the safe removal and storage of harmful carbon emissions from coal and gas-fired power stations, but lost out to schemes in Aberdeenshire and Selby, North Yorkshire.
Mr Ramsbotham said: “We will champion North-East business and campaign to abolish air passenger duty and promote the region as an international gateway.
“We will also campaign for council budgets to help protect services important to businesses and support, and back local enterprise partnerships to create growth.
“Infrastructure and connectivity is also key and we must meet demand for super-fast broadband and support for highenergy use businesses and the case for Teesside’s carbon capture and storage pilot.
“It is also important to hold banks to account for lending and encourage large businesses to pay suppliers quickly, while lowering business rates and empty property rates.”
John Dickson, North-East chairman of the Civil Engineering Contractors’ Association, says ministers must learn from the Government’s reluctance to release money for building projects, which hit companies hard.
Mr Dickson, chairman of the Owen Pugh Group, which employs 370 North-East workers, said: “There is no sign yet of money the Government has promised for infrastructure projects hitting the ground.
“The private sector is being very cautious before committing to release investment funds.
“Signs of improvement in turnover and profit that many contractors are now seeing are largely due to us having been able to get on with work this year, rather than being held up by the weather last year.
“That things have stopped getting worse is in itself an improvement, but I’m not convinced of a recovery and it only feels better because it has stopped getting worse.”
Ted Salmon, Federation of Small Businesses North-East chairman, said: “We need to see the parties truly understand small business needs in the North-East, not just in manifesto development, but with action by Government.
“Members want strong action on issues that are holding too many back, and want changes to tackle late payments and help more get affordable finance from the banks. We have been pressing on a number of issues at the party conferences, and have been lobbying on business rate reforms, tackling late payments and improving access to finance and competition among the banks.
“We also want support for growth and exports and developing skills and young entrepreneurship.”
Comments are closed on this article.