Stockton's Infinity Bridge

NEvolution makes case for North East

01 June 2013

NEvolution, a campaign created by North East editors, is designed to make the case for the North East ahead of the Spending Review later this month, sending out a clear message to Chancellor George Osborne that – with the right support – North East England is geared up to grow.

The campaign, which calls for greater devolution of powers and the redirection of funding into the North East, is described by the Association of North East Councils (ANEC) as a positive and proactive initiative that makes a strong case for the economies of this area of the country.

NEvolution appeals to George Osborne to back the North East, devolving budgets and powers to local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships. NEvolution presents a united voice that makes the case for economic investment in the North East. It is hoped that the campaign will help shape announcements made in the Chancellor’s Spending Review, on June 26.

Paul Watson, chair of ANEC, said that the decision by North East councils to get behind the NEvolution campaign was testament to the importance they attach to the opportunity presented by the Spending Review to devolve greater powers, freedoms, flexibilities and funding to local areas to help grow their local economies.

He said: “NEvolution is a bold and unique way of telling the Government how vital the North East as a whole is to the overall economic prosperity of the UK. We are the only area of the country with a net balance of trade and we want to demonstrate just what we can do with further investment.

“Working with the local newspapers to co-ordinate this campaign in such a unique way shows that across the economies of the North East we are speaking with one voice, asking for greater devolution of powers from the Government and, as an outcome, more targeted investment in this region.  We genuinely believe that, with Mr Osborne’s support, we can play an even greater role in growing the UK economy.”

“We believe that, if we are given the power and financial wherewithal, we can make this area of the country even more prosperous. And this is the spirit of NEvolution – a collaborative, positive and progressive campaign that calls for support to allow us to realise the huge potential that exists here.”

NEvolution seeks to showcase to Westminster the benefits of acting on the Heseltine Report. ‘No Stone Unturned: In Pursuit of Growth’, published in October 2012, looked at Government policy affecting economic growth and made a series of recommendations challenging politicians, civil servants, business leaders and individuals to make changes that would generate economic growth. A key part of Heseltine’s report was a recommendation to direct power to local areas and leaders, as those best placed to understand and to address the opportunities and obstacles to growth in their own communities. The report called for the decentralisation of economic power, as well as packages of investment that allow local economic areas to really demonstrate a track record of delivery.

As well as power and funding, NEvolution calls for support from the Government to drive the development of the skills, improvements to transport and connectivity and improved access to funding for growth, including European funds. The campaign targets the Spending Review as an opportunity for George Osborne to give the area the right tools for creating the change we need to deliver conditions for economic growth.

In a report recently published by ANEC, councils in the region highlight the role that they and the Local Economic Partnerships can play in growing their economies. The report states, ‘North East councils are committed to creating the right conditions for business growth and investment in their areas, in developing skills and employment opportunities, in infrastructure developments, promoting investment opportunities, capital expenditure and developing strategic relationships with partners in the private sector. Local government has enormous potential to help Government re-balance the economy, to foster growth, promote inward investment, increase overseas exports and help reduce the deficit. We are fundamentally part of the solution.

Read more about the role of councils in economic development here.

Read the full Economic Development Task and Finish Group Report.

‘The two Local Enterprise Partnerships for the North East are making great strides forward and are implementing strategies that build on the positive strengths and assets of their respective geographies and for the whole of the North East. But building strong economies is a long term game and our economies are fragile. We welcome the Government taking forward an approach to decentralisation that will give LEP geographies more powers to make the choices that are right for their local economies, to generate and accelerate growth. There is ample evidence to demonstrate that, to date, with both LEPs for the North East maximising the opportunities available for funding to create an investment fund and developing capacity to deliver for their areas.’

Councillor Watson said: “The Government has demonstrated that it accepts in full or in part 81 of Lord Heseltine’s 89 recommendations, and we believe that now is the time to make real change, back the North East and let us take control of our own destinies.”

Colin Tapping, chairman of the Society of Editors Northern Region, said: “Newspapers across the region have put aside their rivalries to support a compelling case to the Chancellor on behalf of their communities.

"The whole of the North East stands four-square behind implementation of the Heseltine Report to deliver investment programmes to the region. Our communities have an outstanding track record in transforming investment into real economic growth.”

Read more about ANEC's response to the Spending Review here.