The region’s largest business member organisation is calling on the government to unlock the true potential of North-East firms.
The North-East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) is seeking greater investment from government to boost GVA and increase the region’s contribution to UK PLC.
Weak growth over the last three years has led the NECC to warn against cuts to areas with the potential to provide economic stimulus, and instead prioritise funding towards areas with the potential to unlock economic growth.
The government currently spends a disproportionate amount in the North-East, partly due to historic economic underperformance.
The chancellor has set June 26 as the date for the 2013 Spending Review, which will set out new spending totals for all departments for three years up to 2015/16.
NECC president, John Mowbray, says more must be done to help North-East businesses deliver sustainable economic growth, increase wealth and more jobs.
He said: “We have been saying for the last two years that the North-East is an untapped resource bursting with potential.
“Our export performance outstrips the rest of the country, unemployment is falling faster than the rest of the UK, our manufacturing is in rude health and our service sector is growing faster than at any time since the recession began.
“What we require are the tools to do a proper job. To fulfil our undoubted potential, improve on what we are good at and utilise our capacity and enviable resources.”
The NECC recommendations seek to remove any barriers to growth that currently exist, increase business performance and improve regional infrastructure.
The North-East’s capacity for development should be a competitive advantage for the region, according to NECC chief executive, James Ramsbotham.
“While we welcome planning reforms, the impact has been limited,” he said. “Local authorities have faced heavy cutbacks and prioritised planning and development to bear some of these cuts, affecting performance and undermining the effect of government policy. We believe greater regionally-focused funding for housing is needed.
“There must also be better understanding of the different regional impacts of taxation and levies such as empty property rates, air passenger duty and fuel duty as well as business rates reform.”
There is also a call for the adoption of recommendations in Lord Heseltine’s growth report, including the need for a single pot approach to funding that should include transport, skills, housing and innovation.
NECC is also calling for more funding for UKTI to help companies expand into overseas markets, clarity on how traineeships are to be funded and a review of apprenticeship funding.
Ramsbotham said: “UKTI has helped countless business explore the potential of foreign markets and further investment would help them increase their offer and serve more companies.
“It is also vital that we capture the current momentum behind apprenticeships and further improve and simplify the service. The current drop-off rate at the age of 19 is unhelpful for both businesses and the labour market.
“Improvements to our transport infrastructure have been announced, but we need more if we are to get the most from our businesses, as well as our key export hubs at our ports and airports.”