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A strong partnership is needed.

Byline: KEVAN CARRICK

TO balance the economy in between the North/South divide has been a challenge for several decades.

Initiatives have been tried by successive governments to narrow the gap. What has been learned over time is that initiatives such as City Challenge and even the Development Corporations were too small in scale to have any impact.

There was also a lack of coherence within the city regions, exacerbated by the overarching control of Whitehall and a disconnection of each local council, not having the critical mass for decision making or resources to make any meaningful impact.

The success of the North East in forming the public-private partnership to attract inward investment and market the region globally was used as a model to form the now extinct Regional Development Agencies (RDAs). The aim of these government departments was to achieve economic growth and jobs for each of the eight English regions.

In our case, One North East was the flagship to drive the regional economy. By and large they did a good job, but were diluted to do other regional activities when the need - often a crisis - arose. The decision to end the RDAs was predicated on the poor performance of other regions and political preference. Local Enterprise Partnerships were put in their place, in our case the North East LEP (NELEP).

What we have found is that it has taken about three years to overcome the closure of one organisation, and the formation of another with a significantly lower budget, to get some traction.

Much excellent work has been done but I am still concerned that there is not yet a stronger partnership between the Combined Authority - the local authorities within the NELEP area - which is needed to deliver an overarching economic plan.

The Centre for Cities annual report - Cities Outlook 2015 - makes it clear that the North/South divide provides a continuing challenge. Devolving power to the regions can help overcome this and the Coalition Government policy is driving this forward, by example, with the first announcement of devolution of some powers to Greater Manchester.

On January 21, The Journal reported the bold proposals of the Combined Authority to bring more powers to the North East as a blueprint for devolution.

These include powers over transport, housing and skills and control over PS500m of European funding. These powers include matters that have a direct impact on the land, property and construction sectors are the formation of a dedicated North East Investment Fund controlling PS500m European fund, Local Growth Fund and City Deal cash, a Housing Investment Fund with monies from the Homes and Communities Agency, and major infrastructure investment.

I fully support this approach with two conditions.

First, that there is a strong partnership between the public and private sector to deliver these proposals, and this to include a strategy that encourages the growth of private sector investment in the region, to provide a strong and stable market.

Secondly, to have an overarching marketing strategy and its implementation for the North East region as a whole to grow the market demand, to sell our wares and to attract inward investors and thus increase demand. Without this the achievement of growth through devolution will struggle.

Kevan Carrick is a partner at JK Property Consultants LLP and policy spokesman for RICS North East
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 28, 2015
Words:554
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