A GROUP of MPs have called upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer to ensure hundreds of Treasury and other Government jobs come to Teesside – and The Northern Echo is today urging ministers to bring these jobs to our region.
The call to bring the Treasury North Campus to Teesside has been backed by leaders across the region, including Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen who has suggested Teesside Airport as a possible location for offices.
Labour MP Andy McDonald and the party’s candidate for Tees Valley Mayor Jessie Joe Jacobs support the prospect of the move to Teesside, but continue to question whether the airport would be a suitable location.
The announcement of a third national lockdown and the tightening of restrictions will mean some of the most disadvantaged and poorest communities experiencing a crisis not seen elsewhere in the country, with families and businesses facing a sustained level of restrictions for almost 12 months.
Research published by the Northern Health Science Alliance shows that since the beginning of the pandemic, the North has suffered disproportionately when compared to other parts of the country.
The letter, backed by a total of 50 MPs from the Northern Research Group, welcomes commitments made in the Autumn Statement, including changes to the Treasury’s “Green Book” and the creation of a £4bn Levelling-Up Fund.
However, the group warns that families and businesses are facing a series of cliff edges throughout the spring as existing support programmes come to an end and Bounce Back Loans become repayable.
The group are also urging the Government to springboard the region’s economic recovery whilst interest rates remain at a record low, by prioritising small regional infrastructure projects, moving more government departments out of London, and fully-financing Town Deals and High Street projects.
In advance of the next Budget scheduled for March 3, the NRG is asking the Government to consider a range of options, including:
• To facilitate an infrastructure revolution across the North by borrowing money at the record low level interest rates;
• Prioritisation of infrastructure that improves cross-border connectivity with Scotland and Wales; ensuring small infrastructure projects, as well as large, are considered given their timelier delivery
• Accelerating the relocation of Whitehall departments out of London into non-metropolitan towns, with the Chancellor announcing the location of the “Treasury North Campus” in Teesside
• A commitment from the Chancellor to fully fund the Government’s Town Deals and High Street bids
• Support families and businesses through this third lockdown through: a Business Rate Holiday
• Extending the £20 Universal Credit increase until lockdown is lifted
• A reduction of VAT to five per cent for businesses in the leisure and tourism sector; the abolition of Stamp Duty on properties under £500,000; and extending the mortgage holiday for those on furlough.
Jake Berry MP, Chair of the NRG, said: “The North has endured one form of restriction of another for almost twelve months. Lockdowns – although necessary while we wait for the vaccine to be rolled-out – only entrench and compound disadvantage already felt by those communities this government has promised to level-up.
“Households and businesses face a series of cliff edges over the coming months as existing support programmes come to an end. And whilst we welcome the unprecedented support provided by this government for those impacted by this virus, to relinquish support now would cause long-term damage to the already fragile economies of large parts of the North and weaken our recovery.
“Now is the time for the Treasury to provide stability to – not uncertainty – to people across the country, by confirming it will stick to task and continue supporting families and businesses as we recover from this pandemic by extending a number of the support measures available.”
Mr Houchen said: “As the vaccine programme scales-up, we need to make sure businesses have the support they need to protect jobs and people’s livelihoods. But we also need to prepare for our long-term economic recovery.
“That’s why I’m delighted that MPs from across the North of England, Scotland, and Wales, back my plans to move government departments out of London to non-metropolitan areas such as Teesside, to create highly-skilled highly-paid jobs.
“They recognise that swapping one metropolitan city, like London, for another, like Manchester, is not going to lead to more investment or better policy making for our towns, villages and rural areas this government promised to ‘level-up’.
“Moving government departments to communities like Teesside however will help them better understand the systemic challenges we face, the investment we need, and will lead to better outcomes and opportunities for local people.”
Andy McDonald, MP for Middlesbrough, said: “I have made repeated representations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer calling for Middlesbrough to be the preferred site as it already has the necessary infrastructure and would be a catalyst for further economic benefits for surrounding businesses and organisations throughout the Tees Valley.”
Ms Jacobs said: “If the government are serious about levelling up then they can’t replace one metropolitan city to another. The Tees Valley is about to see a mini revival and people will come here from all over the UK to live, work and play. It is in my opinion one of the greatest places on earth, from the stunning coast, the beautiful hills to the vibrant cultural scene, affordable homes and some of the warmest, passionate and brilliant people you will meet.
“It’s incredibly important we put pressure on the government to send the jobs here and also to one of our town centres. It would be a real miss economically to go out of town and defeats some of the object of the move, but I have my doubts about the out-of-town business park being suggested by the Tees Valley Mayor.”
Karl Holbrook, editor of The Northern Echo, said: “For years Governments of all colours have talked about bringing real change and investment to the North. For that to happen, their priorities need to change from areas like Leeds and Manchester to places like the Tees Valley.
“Here at The Northern Echo, we have always campaigned to overturn decades of under investment in our neck of the woods. By bringing Treasury and other Government jobs to the Tees Valley, politicians in Westminster have a real opportunity to show the North-East really matters to them. It can’t come soon enough and we urge them not to waste this once in a generation opportunity.”