Joint voice over investment appeal

DIRE need of investment in North-East infrastructure has brought the region’s two Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) closer.

Tees Valley Unlimited (TVU) has been invited by North Eastern LEP to contribute to its North-East Economic Review, due for the Government’s consideration before the next Budget.

It will include an in-depth study, led by former Transport Secretary Lord Adonis and Heidi Mottram, chief executive of Northumbrian Water that aims to produce a bold new economic blueprint for the whole region.

When the review was launched earlier this month, TVU was not invited to get involved.

Both LEPs said when set up last year to succeed the now defunct One North East regional development agency that they would work together on common interests.

But it was at a seminar in Billingham to discuss infrastructure that the first shoots of co-operation appeared publicly.

The seminar, organised by three groups of civil engineers campaigning against the region’s infrastructural decline, had heard a representative of each LEP report on their achievements to date.

During the session it was suggested by delegates that both LEPs need to agree on their priorities and go with a joint voice to government and that the Tees Valley should be involved in the review to ensure it doesn’t miss out on any potential rewards.

Entrepreneur and business angel Jeremy Middleton, a board member of North Eastern LEP, which covers Northumberland , Tyneside , Wearside and County Durham, said what happens in one area impacts hugely on the other. He said the review, though commissioned for the North Eastern LEP, is a national, not a LEP, process. But he added: “We will welcome any submission made to it. It’s there to be embraced.”

Richard McGuckin, Stockton Borough Council’s head of technical services who chairs TVU’s transport and infrastructure group, believed certain things needed to be worked on together. “We do have dialogue and need to ensure it continues,” he added.

Linda Edworthy, director of policy and strategy at TVU, said the LEP had “a long history of partnership working and as such already has a statement of ambition and detailed business plan that will focus our objectives on delivering economic growth.

“It is helpful that one our neighbouring LEPs is gathering detailed evidence to determine their key priorities and TVU would be more than happy to be consulted on this work as it emerges.”

The seminar, attended by 84 delegates including MPs and representatives of companies, councils, professional and public bodies, was organised by the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Civil Engineering Contractors’ Association (CECA NE) and the Association of Consultancy and Engineering.

John Dickson, chairman of CECA NE, said under-investment in the region’s infrastructure had spanned several decades. He said civil engineering had found difficulty in engaging with the North Eastern LEP before but was keen to engage more closely with both LEPs now.

Iain Wright, Shadow Minister for Competitiveness and Enterprise and MP for Hartlepool , used his key speech at the event to call on the Government to back North-East manufacturing and the construction sector as a means re-balancing the economy.

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