'Get on with devolution'
Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Vince Cable urged local politicians to work closer with businesses to get more devolved power.
He was speaking at the North East England Chamber of Commerce Northumbria and Durham Annual Dinner held at Newcastle Civic Centre, attended by over 400 leading business figures.
Sir Vince Cable said: “There are a number of distinct problems for us to tackle at present.One of them is that there are too many decisions taken in Whitehall and Westminster.Regions like yours here in the North East, need to have genuine autonomy. However, you are in danger of falling behind the rest of the country.Some people in local Government need to get their act together to grab the devolution opportunities to help turn the whole region around.
“Businesspeople and politicians need to work together to make the difference in areas like training, housing and social care.
“There is also the destabilising effect of Brexit. The impact of this is serious even though it hasn’t happened yet.Many skilled staff are leaving the UK and going back to the EU and the devaluation of the pound is resulting in companies sitting on their cash rather than investing it.I think, due to a number of factors, including the Government being so disunited, there is a 20-20% chance Brexit will not happen.
“A third issue is the lack of long term perspective from the Government. I worked for Shell and had to plan ahead for the next 20 years.The lack of this type of future perspective creates a chicken and egg situation, as it doesn’t encourage investment and creates low productivity, which then doesn’t stimulate investment.”
Chamber President John McCabe’s speech at the Dinner focused on the Chamber’s campaign work on key issues, the progress on devolution North of the Tyne and highlighted regional business success stories.
He said on Brexit: “From banking crisis to Brexit uncertainty has become the new certainty, but thanks to our resilience and ingenuity, this region’s economy is strong and our prospects are bright.We are, by and large, a humble region.We sometimes feel a little awkward with praise and we don’t shout as loudly or as often as we should about our achievements.There are some truly exceptional businesses in the North East of England and we should never stand-by as any commentator puts our region down in their own agenda-driven self-interest.”
The dinner was sponsored by Newcastle International Airport and Gateshead College.