Centre for Cities has called upon the North of Tyne mayoral candidates to prioritise boosting economic growth ahead of next month’s election.
To achieve this, Centre for Cities’ new policy paper sets out three key areas for the election winner to focus on:
1. Encouraging the growth of high-knowledge businesses
Despite driving the North East’s economy, Newcastle has lower productivity and wages than both the national average and comparable cities such as Manchester or Leeds. The city’s under-performance reduces job opportunities across the whole area.
To tackle this, the Mayor should ensure a supply of new high-quality office space within Newcastle city centre. This could be done either through direct investment, or by de-risking the investment by underwriting initial rents.
This would help realign Newcastle’s city centre away from an over-reliance on retail and towards high-skill firms – bringing more jobs and higher wages into the city centre for the region’s residents to access. It would also increase footfall to shops, cafes and restaurants – boosting local business.
2. Improving education and skills
Attracting high-skilled jobs also requires a high-skilled workforce. To achieve this, the Mayor should coordinate the many education projects that already exist in the area. This will allow policymakers to identify gaps in service provision and fill them accordingly.
Once effective coordination is in place, the Mayor should work with employers and employees to trial new education projects that respond to local need.
3. Developing a long-term strategic vision for the region
While the Mayor will be elected by the residents of Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland, the North of Tyne’s economic footprint extends well beyond its political boundaries; around 90,000 people cross the Tyne daily for work.
Therefore, the mayor could use soft powers to coordinate work with neighbouring council leaders and maximise devolution’s benefits to the regional economy, aligning policy-making in areas such as housing, infrastructure and economic development. They should also invite interested partners from across the North East to participate in skills and education programmes.
Centre for Cities chief executive Andrew Carter said: "The election of North of Tyne mayor could mark a political and economic step change for the area, as it has done in London, Birmingham and Greater Manchester. To achieve this, the election winner should first focus on boosting the economy.
"The North of Tyne has been hit hard by recent decades’ changing economic realities such as globalisation or workplace automisation – limiting job opportunities. Therefore, the key priority for whoever who wins next month’s election should be to lay the foundations needed to boost overall economic growth.
"The challenge for the new Mayor will be finding a way to work with neighbouring local authorities who, while not formally part of North of Tyne, have close economic links. If this relationship is managed effectively it will bring tangible benefits for the entire North East; if not, then the benefits of devolution to the North of Tyne and beyond could be lost."