Looking towards life after lockdown
I can almost taste that first pint, nursing my ankle after the first football game, talking with friends and family about the last 12 months. Many things will return to normal, some things can’t some things should not.
The North East has been criminally undervalued, investment was London focused and policy making centralised. We should not simply rebuild from lockdown, instead reimagine foundations and establish a diverse, balanced and fair economy.
The North East consistently over delivers on Government investment and projects, exports more value than the UK average and with one of the highest UK graduate retention rates. Yet I’m sure you will all be aware how much spend is focused on London, such as sevenfold infrastructure spend compared to the North East.
The end of lockdown, coupled with Brexit, presents an opportunity to rethink this London centric strategy.
Plans to relocate treasury offices to the North East is welcome. Not only will they be able to share in our football misery, but also experience first-hand the challenges and potential of the region, and so the need to *ahem* level up the North East.
Developing infrastructure should also be a no-brainer (almost 1% of investment returns 1% in activity), so full commitment to HS2 will ensure the North East is not left behind, and improving the East coast mainline will make us a much more attractive destination.
Following Brexit, new trade barriers have reduced our global competitiveness. This is fact, and it is not defeatist to say so, but what we can do is focus on how else to make the North East, and UK, a global competitor.
The green economy and transition to electric vehicles is the obvious opportunity. The announcement of a “Gigaplant” in Northumberland, a £2.6bn investment in battery production and research, on top of development of International Advanced Manufacturing Park and the give a glimpse of a greener future, and successes we should build on.
On top of this, we have five regional universities, many more colleges, producing top graduates across various sectors. Attracting and retaining these talents will help propel the North East into a more innovative and dynamic future.
The Chamber factors all this into its policy campaign, and the Government budget, 3rd March, provides a real test to properly commit to a levelling up agenda. After all, surely the safest investment is the one in the region that continues to deliver against the odds.