Attracting private sector jobs is key

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WITH less than a week to go before Chancellor George Osborne’s Spending Review, the push continues to recognise the potential of the region.

Supported by newspapers across the North East, the NEvolution campaign calls for greater devolution of powers and the redirection of funding into the region ahead of the Review on Wednesday.

While transport – and the dualling of the A1 – is important for opening up the county to investment, funding to boost jobs creation and growth is also vital.

Northumberland has a high proportion of public-sector jobs, with the county council and the NHS among the biggest employers, and coupled with the loss of businesses such as Rio Tinto Alcan, attracting the private sector is key.

And the situation is even more stark in Morpeth itself.

At the height of the recession, the town hit national headlines as the town most at risk from public-sector cuts.

With 60 per cent of the local workforce employed by the state at the time, the town had the highest proportion of public-sector workers of anywhere in the country, according to Office for National Statistics data analysed by research group Local Futures.

Most of the 15,000 residents were either employed directly by the state in one of the three local hospitals, Northumberland County Council, the police headquarters or Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) offices, or indirectly through private providers dependent on public contracts.

Arch – The Northumberland Development Company, set up by the county council, works to promote enterprise and support business growth and to attract private-sector investment in business and property, with a particular focus on key industry sectors.

The county already has a significant number of companies working in healthcare and life sciences, engineering, energy, manufacturing and food and drink, so funding can help to develop these sectors by attracting new firms.

Last week’s employment figures show that there have been some improvements in the level of joblessness in the region and county, but the North East still has the highest rate of unemployment.

And MP Sir Alan Beith wants to ensure that Arch focuses some of its efforts and resources on jobs in the rural areas of Northumberland.

The company was awarded £11.75million from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund to deliver a programme that will provide financial support to businesses across the county.