The announcement of a multi-billion engineering contract for the North East a few weeks ago confirms the government’s commitment to the north and into creating an enterprise economy based on its traditional strengths in manufacturing and engineering.
Almost a year ago the Labour Cabinet in full pre-election gear road into Durham for a special meeting of the Cabinet the centre piece of which was supposed to be a pre-election announcement of a train order with Hitachi which would bring hundreds of jobs to County Durham.
Sadly the same week the mothballing of the TCP Corus Steel plan was confirmed with the loss of thousands of skilled jobs on Teesside. The decision, or, calculation was made that the ‘good news’ of the train announcement may have been lost in the bad news of the Corus plant closure and so the announcement was pulled.
One year later and we have a Conservative Secretary of State, Philip Hammond, proudly announcing the awarding of a £4.5 billion contract for new rolling stock to be built in County Durham-home of the railways.
The news of the trains contract arrived just after it was announced by Secretary of State, Vince Cable that a buyer had been found for the Corus TCP plant-SSI and the plant would be re-opened creating thousands of new jobs, which followed a personal intervention by prime minister David Cameron whilst meeting with Tata in India last year.
Last week Chancellor George Osborne the government has announced plans to create new style Enterprise Zones which did so much to create wealth and jobs in the north in the eighties;
These announcements themselves came on top of commitments by the Government to a £350 million upgrade of the Tyne & Wear Metro;
A grant of £20 million to Nissan to build a new electric vehicle plant in Sunderland creating or safeguarding 2000 manufacturing and engineering jobs across the supply chain;
An investment of £30 million for NaREC (National Renewable Energy Centre) in Blyth to help build new offshore wind turbine test facilities and a further 12.4 million to help firms in the wind industry develop a manufacturing and assembly hub on the north bank of the Tyne.
In addition to these specific measures aimed at boosting manufacturing in the regions the government has also announced that:
The Regional Growth Fund of £1.4 billion will have a bias to those regions which will be hit most by the reductions in public expenditure;
A National Insurance Contributions holiday for new start ups outside of London, the south East and Eastern regions.
The North East has just had two record quarters of export performance and these announcements will ensure that manufacturing in the North East under this government continues to be a driver of economic recovery in the North and for the UK as a whole.