2011 reforms must put business on firmer footing – NECC

 THE coalition Government has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to genuinely reform the country in business-like fashion during 2011, according to the region’s largest business membership organisation.

 The North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) today publishes its 2011 Manifesto – Driving Sustainable Growth – in which it lays out three key themes the Government must embrace if the tough planned spending cuts are not to cripple the economy.

 The document, which sets out NECC’s lobbying platforms for the year, calls for safeguarding assets which are critical to maintaining the recovery; reforming areas of policy to bolster competitiveness of North East businesses and UK plc; and, investing  in priority areas where this will unlock economic growth.

 Martyn Pellew, NECC president, said: “There is a very real opportunity for the Government to seize the chance to make reforms which will create the best possible environment for business in the North East. We are facing public spending cuts on an unprecedented scale and with it we are seeing radical changes to the way we run affairs at a regional and local level.  Without a strong focus on the way these reforms will support businesses to grow the economy, we face a potential vacuum that will damage the UK economy for years to come.”

 NECC’s 2011 Manifesto calls for a range of actions including:

In 2011, NECC will campaign for:

 Transport

• A tax and regulatory system which supports air links between the North East and key markets;

• A detailed timetable for inclusion of the North East in a high speed rail network.

 Strategic sector support

• Targeted sector support where the North East demonstrates genuine excellence.

• Regional Growth Fund bids which unlock investment in low carbon industry, including R&D.

 International trade

Strategic export support in line with specific regional strengths and opportunities to broaden the base of exporters.

 Infrastructure

• Mechanisms which direct investment towards areas of capacity, not congestion – including through grid connection charges, transport spending criteria and use of water assets

 Skills

• Support for employers taking on and retaining apprentices to de-risk this investment.

 Public procurement

• Reforms to create broader, simpler and smarter public procurement in the North East.

Finance

• Continuation of targeted support for businesses through the Finance for Business North East programme.

• Banking reform which does not undermine lending to businesses;

• Commitment from banks on speed of decision-making and transparency of process.

 Tax

• No new use of local taxation powers or increase in local authority charges to business in the North East in 2011.

 Innovation

• Maintaining support for key sectors, including through regional innovation centres.

 Mr Pellew added: “NECC’s Manifesto represents a uniquely powerful agenda for North East business.

 “We are very clear about what it is that North East businesses want in order to create jobs, encourage new investment and generate success, and the challenge for the next year is to maintain and accelerate the growth that businesses have started to deliver in 2010.

 “There is no doubt that 2011 will be another challenging year, but we absolutely believe that it is a year in which the focus should be on creating the right environment for sustainable growth rather than focusing on recovery.  With change in the support infrastructure in the North East, there is a genuine opportunity to create a lasting legacy that will benefit the region for years to come.”

 The Manifesto lays out the need for investment in the region to reflect the concerns of NECC’s members – with the emphasis on improved transport links that will allow the region to grow further its exporting strength as well as investment in skills development to ensure that the region’s businesses have access to a skilled workforce that will help them to grow. 

 The Manifesto calls for the Government to carefully manage changes to regional policy, such as the introduction of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and ‘localism’, to ensure that this does not hinder the development and growth of businesses in the region. Local authorities have strong roles to play in ensuring that the North East reaches its full economic potential.

 Mr Pellew added: “It is critical that policy leaders and decision makers recognise the need for the North East’s private sector to grow, in order to replace jobs lost in the public sector and create the tax revenues which will rebuild public finances. 

 “Improving the conditions for businesses to flourish in our region must therefore be their overriding consideration.  We must also ensure that all the new organisations which will emerge in the North East in the coming months truly have business interests at their very heart. They and we must all work tirelessly to excite businesses to grow and succeed.

 “NECC will forcefully represent members’ views to local, regional and national bodies to make sure this is clearly understood and quickly acted upon.”

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