Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 14.40.18THE North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) has set out its key priorities for devolved powers to the region.

The region’s largest business membership organisation has said that skills and transport should be top of the list and that organisations must work together if devolution is to be a success.

By reducing the skills gap with the rest of the UK and cutting down journey times between the region and other major cities, the North East will be able to make an even stronger contribution to the Northern Powerhouse.

“The North East is a critical part of the UK economy,” said James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the NECC.

“We have the best export record in the country, significant energy expertise, capacity for further residential and industrial development and we are a hub of major industry clusters.

“Despite this, our region has performed below potential for many years, and so we believe commitment to devolution is vital to maximise our assets.

“Whitehall has shown itself to be incapable of delivering an approach that benefits the whole county and that is why we must ensure the North East has the chance to make decisions for itself.”

The Chancellor, George Osborne’s,  recent comments regarding devolved powers to cities has shown willingness to shift the balance of power from London, however the NECC’s message is that the North East must work together if the region is to strike a valuable deal.

“The North East has a great deal to gain from devolution and should be making a strong case to Government for a similar deal to that of Greater Manchester, albeit tailored to our specific needs,” said Mr Ramsbotham.

“As a region we will be stronger if we work collectively. We must make a robust case if we are to agree policy outcomes that could improve business conditions and grow the regional economy.

NECC members have not identified a specific structure for devolution, but set out the powers needed to deliver on business ambitions, and the necessary characteristics of any body set up to deliver them.

“Debate exists around which model of devolution would benefit the region, but if we are to succeed and make the optimum use of devolution we must have accountability and clarity over strong leadership,” said Mr Ramsbotham.

NECC’s position on devolution has been agreed by its decision-making Council after consultation with its network of sub-regional committees.

“What our members want now is for central government to commit to the principles of devolution and for local government to put forward a proactive case tailored to our region,” said Mr Ramsbotham.

“We will continue to work with both and are ready to bring business community support when it happens.”