Will the north east get the attention it deserves?
With Boris Johnson’s Conservatives moving forward with a strong mandate, much of the focus has been on how they will respond to those who have shifted to the Conservatives.
Nowhere was this more apparent than in the north east: areas such as Redcar, Sedgefield and Durham North West very much signify the end of Labour’s ‘red wall.’ Whilst the reasons behind such an electoral swing remain complex, it is clear that the north east’s political figureheads are keen to take advantage of a renewed focus on the north.
The North East Development Conference was therefore a timely reminder that the north east is still open to business.
The region’s recently-devolved combined authorities – North East, North of Tyne, and Tees Valley Combined Authorities – were all keen to show that they are both ready and able to drive forward the investment and growth needed for the region. With a £21bn a year economy containing over 28,000 businesses and one of the strongest exporting regions in the UK, they appear ready to take advantage of the current government’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse project and are unafraid to hold its feet to the fire.
Perhaps the most notable advocate for this was Councillor Iain Malcolm, Leader of South Tyneside Metropolitan Council and Chair of the North East Combined Authority (NECA). A councillor since 1988, he explained that he has seen governments under party banners rise and fall, and his message to the current government was simple: live up to the rhetoric of the election and hand over more powers to the Northern Powerhouse.
In his position as Chair of NECA, Cllr Iain Malcolm explained how the being the figurehead of the combined authority helps attract investment into the north east. Perhaps more telling was hearing how he saw the political nature of the role as ensuring that future growth benefits those living and working in the north east.
“We are ready to work hand in hand with anybody that can help us drive forward prosperity and opportunity for the residents and businesses of this region. We are ready to embrace the opportunities that are offered by the new government – just as we have embraced opportunities of the last government.”
– Cllr Iain Malcolm
Other speakers and contributors throughout the one-day event included: Jamie Driscoll, Mayor of the North of Tyne Combined Authority; and Helen Golightly, Chief Executive of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, who echoed how both the newly devolved authorities and the new Conservative government present opportunities for the north east to grasp.
With a renewed focus on the Northern Powerhouse agenda and political figures from all sides calling for more investment, the north east, and its built environment, appear set for exciting growth in the years to come.