Give us a better deal
NEWCASTLE City Council leader Nick Forbes has called for a “new deal for the North” as the region looks to recover from the coronavirus crisis.
Coun Forbes was speaking at the Great Northern Conference after a week which has shown deep divisions between political leaders in the North and Ministers in Westminster over the region’s response to the pandemic.
He said that Newcastle was facing a massive challenge in ensuring the survival of as many businesses as possible over the winter, adding that he wanted to avoid the “scarring effects of intergenerational unemployment” that the North East had seen in the 1980s and 1990s.
He called for more powers to be devolved to areas like the North East and said the Government “wasn’t always as joined up and coherent as we’d like it to be” when it came to regional economies.
He said: “If we’ve got the right support in place, not just for individual training but in tackling public health and making sure we’ve got early intervention and driving educational attainment, not only are we putting in place the foundations for the future, but we’re also tackling the inequalities that have been exacerbated by the Covid crisis. What we need is a new relationship with the Government, a new deal for the North. That’s something we’ve been calling for for several years now but the need for it has become greater, the purpose for it has become sharper and the requirement has become ever greater.”
Coun Forbes’ comments come a day after the North East Covid-19 Economic Response Group said a £2.8bn funding package was needed to ensure the region was not left behind in the economic slowdown that has followed the coronavirus lockdowns.
The group said wide-ranging efforts were needed after 97% of businesses in the region were impacted by the coronavirus outbreak and 36,500 more people went on to unemployment benefits.
At the Great Northern Conference, Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake said talks with Government over the Covid outbreak “hadn’t felt like a negotiation between equals”.
She said the stricter lockdowns in various parts of the North were hitting many people’s mental health, and there was a “sense of frustration” from some of the messages coming from the Government.
Earlier at the conference, Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged businesses in the North to look to the future, saying: “I’m certain the people of Northern
England will confront this crisis with the fortitude and selflessness we’ve seen throughout.”
But his Government had earlier come under fire from South Yorkshire mayor Dan Jarvis, who said that “the Government needs to understand its credibility is on the line” and that it needed to “make ‘levelling up’ more than just a slogan”.
Mr Jarvis, whose area is following Greater Manchester into the highest tier of coronavirus restrictions, said: “The moment to act is now because the credibility of the Government is on the line.
“The handling of the pandemic has already dented people’s trust we need the Government to tackle Covid effectively, collaboratively and in a way which recognises and actively counters the disproportionate impact it’s having on disadvantaged areas, and on the North in particular.”