Column by Jack Simpson, Chamber policy adviser as published in the Journal 7 February.
January welcomed the start of North of Tyne devolution consultations and preparation for Phase Two of Brexit negotiations, marking the start to what could be a challenging, but potentially rewarding, year for the region.
It was positive to hear Councillor Nick Forbes at a recent consultation declare that the North East should no longer play the victim, and instead use this chance, with a “coalition of the willing”, to become “masters of our own destiny”.
Devolution allows for better control of local affairs, building of a stronger business community and creating a stronger, more influential, North East. It is already estimated that in 30 years’ devolution would create 10,000 jobs and generate £2.1bn investments, as well as taking over central projects, such as adult education, to drive up skills.
By having regional control over local funding, devolution allows for a tailored business investment strategy, and more efficient responses to any crises. This will allow the Mayoral authorities to invest strategically into sectors or projects that would best benefit their areas, rather than simply following a central government strategy, that has no bearing on the North East.
Also, with the help of Department for International Trade, it is hoped, that a pragmatic regional strategy will help businesses export and reach new markets, keeping the region globally competitive, increasing prosperity and encouraging innovation. It’s anticipated, that devolution will better support North East exporters, in a way that the government has neglected for too long.
It is hoped, therefore, that devolution could reduce the impact of Brexit on the North East. Leaked reports, Backbench rebellions and the EU bulwark have all left the government in almost a bad a state as North East Football!
It is obviously vital that the region and the country is prepared for leaving the EU. Good devolution deals throughout the region, committed to helping the social and business communities of our region, will provide us the best opportunity to the make the region a success in the post-Brexit environment, and provide us with needed long term flexibility.
The Chamber is pushing for devolution deals that will best help the region post-Brexit, and though it is appreciated that devolution is not the solution itself, it can form part of the solution, it could help to exploit our strengths, and maintain a global, influential and working North East.