As published in the Northern Echo
By now its as traditional as sprouts that all columnists devote their final column of any given year to looking back as what went well or not in the previous year and a little peak in to the delights to come when we’ve all had one sprout too many in January. Whether such offerings are a welcome as sprouts depends on your view of the diminutive brassicas and their effects – but here goes.
At time of writing, we still have a government about as popular as the washing up, but we’ll leave any comment on the “B” word for later.
Mentioning the Government, they have done some things well this year and it is fair to say that in the Tees Valley we have started to see the benefits of the devolution agenda. The have DfT finally given up control of the adult skills budget so we can start using local expertise to solve local problems. Flexibility of funding has allowed progress on Middlesbrough and Darlington stations allowing the Mayor and Combined Authority to put down a real marker (and some money) to progress projects which have been in limbo for years.
We’re doing very nicely in the Tees Valley with some great projects. Tees Advanced Manufacturing Park will use a long derelict piece of land and bring high quality jobs, Sirius Minerals have progressed one of the most difficult engineering challenges in the North and, seemingly from nowhere, Symmetry Business Park has sprung up - I’m sure they are using wands it has gone up so quickly.
We’ve perhaps made less progress in convincing Whitehall to invest in the rail network and the looming energy gap remains a worry with not much to move us forward on either. Whitehall seem to be pre-occupied with another issue.
That brings me to 2019 and, yes, Brexit. The current state of play seems to be meaningful vote in early 2019 and then - who knows? No deal is a bleak prospect, especially for the North East. More uncertainty is not good but, if extending Article 50 means a better outcome, then so be it. Perhaps the politicians will have the Christmas period to reflect on whether their behaviour over the past few weeks has been the best for the country and what resolutions they can make for better in 2019. Our Members remain committed to the Single Market and their patience is wearing thin.
Hopefully the best of outcomes will see us all prosper in the new year. Happy sprouts.