Economic Growth and Employment
Opposition Day — [Un-allotted Day]
Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham, Labour)
I am sorry; I am running out of time.
We know that the RDA helped to invest in a new generation of advanced technologies with expanding markets around the world, which greatly helped growth in the north-east. Through industry, Government and university collaborations, a number of sectors were identified in which growth should be prioritised, including the processing and chemical industries, automotive and advanced manufacturing, and printable electronics. Those sectors, critically, were underpinned by centres of excellence supported by the regional development agency.
Did the incoming Government seek to build on that? No. What they did instead was get rid of One North East, although it had extensive support from businesses and the community in the north-east, and what we have in its place is the regional growth fund, about which I shall say more in a moment. The loss of the regional development agency led to a loss of expertise in regard to the sectors that needed to be developed in the north-east, and a loss of what was necessary to support that development. In great contrast, the regional growth fund not only has less money but is not strategic at all. I am very pleased that a number of north-east companies have benefited from the RGF, although the Secretary of State must address the fact that getting the money through to the companies is taking a long time.