North Tyneside’s economy has been growing faster than anywhere else in the North East, but is everyone included?
As one of Britain’s foremost industrialised regions the North East has a fascinating economic story to tell. There have been great highs, and great lows. One of the important questions to ask, both when productivity is high, and also when it is sluggish, is “who the economy is serving?” If there is money being made, who is making it, how is it being made, and whose pockets does it end up in?
On Wednesday evening I chaired the Council’s Economic Prosperity sub-committee for the first time. This is a group of 12 councillors (10 Labour and 2 Conservative), tasked with examining the local authority’s economic policy and performance. We have four formal meetings a year, which the public can observe, as well as corresponding and conducting work on certain themes in between meetings.
The headline is that, even in the face of pretty horrific cutbacks to our spending power, our Mayor, Norma Redfearn, has overseen a remarkable period of economic growth. As the table below shows, North Tyneside has outperformed all its North East neighbours in recent years. We should absolutely applaud this achievement, but at the same time we can’t become complacent. There’s more work to do, beginning with asking who is benefitting from this growth, and crucially, who isn’t.
That’s why I was delighted that the main agenda item at Wednesday’s meeting was hearing about the council’s Inclusive Growth Strategy (documents here). The strategy was just adopted by our Cabinet in May so this was our first chance to hear about it in detail.
The presentation we received was very impressive, explaining how, in the years ahead, the council will continue to support a healthy, growing local economy, but with increased attention given to making sure that nobody is “left behind”. Following the presentation there were a range of probing questions asked by committee members. Cllr Stirling (LAB, Chriton) was keen to emphasise the effort it will take to deal with the long-term effects of deprivation for the residents of a ward like his. Cllr Pickard (LAB, Riverside) pointed out the “problem with averages”, meaning that whilst the economy of the borough may be growing as a whole, we need to really drill down to the local level to be sure that new money starts to flow into areas that have missed out in the past. My own contribution to the debate focused on how Tyneside is structurally disadvantaged compared to other parts of England, making it really important for us to leverage in external investment.
If you have any comments to make on future of our local economy you can drop me a line on my council email address or leave a comment on my Facebook page.