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North East business leader warns while North East failure to secure devolution is helping to make “Manchester even more wealthy”


Sep 1, 2016

North East business leader David Harrison, writing in a report for the Policy North think tank, warns that the North East is losing out “in a competition for scarce resources” due to “petty local political in-fighting.”

David Harrison is the Managing Partner of Newcastle-based financial services group True Potential LLP, which employs 137 staff at it’s Newburn headquarters.

David founded financial services firm Positive Solutions in 1997 and grew the business to the largest in the country, representing 1,900 independent financial advisers, with a turnover of £114 million.

Mr Harrison says “The North East has been my home since I was a child growing up in County Durham. I have worked locally in manufacturing and construction and, for the last three decades, in financial services.

We have some tremendous assets, with a rich industrial heritage, buoyant tourism industry and dedicated workforce with real grit and determination. But we should demand more and strive for better.

Given our relatively small size, the region should be nimble, agile and entrepreneurial. But we are fragmented, bureaucratic in our approach and petty local political in-fighting is rife.”

In his report for Policy North Mr Harrison also issues an urgent call for “better, faster transport connections” especially to London.

Mr Harrison says “Now that local political leaders have shamefully failed to agree a devolution deal, we will miss out on £1bn for the region. Funds are and will remain tight, so where should the priority be? Past governments should have invested in high speed trains, while recent efforts and HS2 appear again to have a North West bias under current plans, missing out our region where the stimulus is really needed.”

In his report Mr Harrison highlights statistics which show spending on railways per head of population in the North East is £50 – compared to £85 in the North West, £100 in Yorkshire and the Humber and £298 in London.

Mr Harrison also calls for better links from Newcastle airport directly to London to “to open up the North East to more businesses and therefore opportunities and growth.”

Mr Harrison says the action is needed to help the North East compete against other regions in the Government’s so called “Northern Powerhouse.”

Mr Harrison says “Last year the North East saw by far the biggest decline of any region in the number of businesses based within its boundaries. A 10 percent drop in this region against a five and eight percent rise in the North West and Yorkshire respectively is concerning. I wonder how many of the departed enterprises upped sticks in search of better connected places to do business.

The North East is desperate for a new economic vision and the failure of our local councils to agree a devolution deal is depressing. The opportunity to set our own course with serious cash to spend as we decide appears to have been squandered. Where do we go from here?

While some in the region fight among themselves, Manchester gets even more wealthy. To be frank, we are in competition for scarce resources. We need to get the region moving.”

Commenting on the report, Chairman of Policy North Stephen Purvis says “David is one of the region’s most successful entrepreneurs and has helped create thousands of jobs in the North East.

He is right to highlight the concerns many business leaders have over the recent failure of the region’s devolution deal. It is time to get that deal back on track to help the North East compete against Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and beyond.

One of the best ways to do that is investing in transport links directly to London, to boost economic growth in the region and we are making that case to Government.”

By Emily