An open letter to all North of Tyne mayoral candidates for the upcoming election.
Dear prospective Mayor, I wish you every success in your venture and have noted a few comments which you may find useful going forward, either in your campaign or once you are in office.
First the negative stuff:
The North of Tyne Combined Authority is not just about Newcastle, nor just about the economy. Each of the three authorities areas need to work out how they can each contribute to the other.
There are wider issues of inequality to deliver. The political divisions between the Local Authorities does nobody any favours and, in my view is used as a political trick by Westminster to do the region down. Indeed politics, especially party politics needs to be taken out of the equation. I would not want the Combined Authority to add more divisiveness and more infighting. The Mayor will need to work with the other regional authorities to create a joined up approach where everyone works together.
Now the more positive stuff:
The areas I would like to see a focus on are:
- Reducing the region’s dependence upon London and forming closer ties with other cities, such as Edinburgh.
- Increasing access to fair funding, both for public as well as private sector and especially capital for the rural areas where funding is particularly difficult.
- Easing planning consent, in given areas, to make speculative development easier, in particular for businesses. Planning must be unified and flow across the Local Authority areas. If agreed in one it should carry through the others.
- Making the market towns vibrant with visitor and destination based attractions.
- Focusing on key industries in which the region can excel, deciding on what we are good.
- Reducing transport costs (and other infrastructure) to prevent the cost of commute being a block to economic growth.
Finally, this is my suggested big idea:
To develop the region as a net exporter of electricity by becoming a leader in renewable, offshore, wind, photovoltaic, geo etc. and use this to grow the High Value Manufacturing sector, focussing on low carbon growth. This builds upon the energy skills we already have as a region, gives jobs, academic quality and supports the green agenda.