Bosses take up key roles on new body; First job will be to resolve political row.
BUSINESS leaders have been appointed to a North East partnership tasked with reviving the region's economy. Nine employers from Durham to Northumberland will join seven council leaders and two education chiefs on the region's local enterprise partnership.
Ministers ordered the region to set up the partnership last year after scrapping the various regional bodies tasked with job creation.
Now the group will be given a week to resolve a dispute over where an enterprise zone should be located, before it looks to the wider economic problems facing the region.
Interim chairman Paul Walker will step down to make way for new chairman Paul Woolston, senior partner at accountants PwC in Newcastle.
He will be joined on the panel by Dr Arnab Basu, chief executive of technology business Kromek in Sedgefield and Michael Bellamy, general manager of Cramlington oil and gas pipeline business PII. Also on the partnership is Fiona Cruickshank, co-owner and director of Northumberland-based SCM Pharma and Andrew Hodgson chief executive of subsea engineering specialist SMD in North Tyneside. David Land, engineering and operations director at automotive manufacturer ThyssenKrupp Tallent in Newton Aycliffe, will also take up a role, as will senior Conservative party member Jeremy Middleton, who runs his own investment group.
Gill Southern, director of Wearside-based manufacturer Wessington Cryogenics, and Paul Varley, managing director of Carrillion Energy Services are also on the partnership board. Outgoing partnership chair Mr Walker, former chief executive of international IT firm Sage, said the panel represented a huge opportunity for the region.
He said: "The selection of the board is great news for the local enterprise partnership, and harnesses the skills and expertise of leading business people from right across the North East.
"The thing that is exciting about the board we now have is the scope of businesses involved, from manufacturers through to high-tech science companies, as well as representation from low carbon and offshore energy businesses. "With their combined skills and passion for the region, I really do believe we have the strongest possible team in place to help push forward the economic development of the North East and really unlock the potential that exists here."
Seven council leaders are already in the partnership, but unity broke down in recent weeks as a plan to build a pounds 900m enterprise zone predominantly in Newcastle was opposed by the leaders of Durham, Northumberland, South Tyneside, North Tyneside and Sunderland councils.
The five had backed a plan worth just pounds 200m which would have seen the enterprise zone pass through their districts along the A19 and into Blyth.
A last-minute plea to the Government for an delay in handing over the enterprise zone submission means business leaders will now be able to vote on where the zone should be located.
The enterprise zones offer firms an initial freeze in business rates followed by permission for councils to keep all increased rates for 25 years.
This fund is then handed to a local enterprise partnership made up of council chiefs and business leaders to spend as they wish. Comment 32
KEY ROLE Paul Woolston, senior partner at accountants PwC, has been picked tp chair the LEP. Right, Jeremy Middleton has also joined the board