MHW provided background information and regional scene-setting
ahead of the recent City Growth Commission event in Newcastle. We
were also involved in the local hearings and discussions with a mix
of local council, business and academic representatives that will
help the Commission form its views.
For them the objective is to come up with proposals that will
lay the foundations for a significant power shift away from the
centre (Westminster primarily) and towards regional cities. The
ultimate aim is to make a case for 'cities' (or the City Region in
the North East case) to take a major new role in our political
While the debate raised many interesting points, on the face of
it identifying a way forward for the North East has some major
challenges, with many questions to ponder.
How will the North East respond to a (more) independent
Scotland? Are we too remote from the proposed HS2 scheme for it to
have any beneficial impact? What can we do about the skills
shortages that are stifling the growth of our traditional
engineering and industrial sectors? Can Hitachi become another
Nissan? What role can the universities play?
In truth, much will rest with the success or otherwise of the
newly formed LA7 combined authority and its ability to wrench
greater devolution of fiscal and policy making powers from London.
But can it really ever be effective in an isolated North East
without a loosening of the national purse strings?
The City Growth Commission's report is due later in 2014 and is
intended to set out a road map for change. This outside and
objective view of the North East will make interesting reading when