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The Big Question: March ’24

With Prime Minister Rishi Sunak having hinted he will call a General Election “in the second half” of 2024, what policies do you want the new Government to prioritise and why?

Kevan Carrick, Co-founder, JK Property Consultants

Economic growth is crucial to bringing improved wellbeing to the people of our region.

And there are key issues that need to be addressed to release property and help create that growth.

We need a strategy focused on bringing forward new initiatives to attract foreign, direct and inward investment, as well as supporting start-ups and the scaling up of SMEs, with facilities in place for training and upskilling.

We also need to scale the delivery of housing to meet the economic growth plan, bringing stability to the market by exceeding the current 300,000 homes target.

The shortage of properties for sale, rent and affordable living are driving up prices, and we must see a reversal of the inexorable inflation of house values.

The next Government must also encourage confidence for the investment in, and delivery of, employment space, and use fiscal and public sector investment powers to facilitate development delivery where viability is challenged.

The tools to deliver these matters are already in place, with the Regeneration Act 2023 and the new National Planning Policy Framework linked with increased resource and reform in planning.

Leadership from the Government and local decision-makers will be essential in implementing these strategies.


Matt Bratton, Deputy regional director, CBI

Firms have been telling me we need to take decisive action to make the UK the most competitive and trusted destination for investment.

That means implementing long-term policies and creating regulatory stability.

Key things businesses are looking for include planning reform, a concise business tax roadmap and a refreshed strategy for international trade.

But that’s not all; we also need to futureproof the UK’s labour market.

We need a workforce that is productive, healthy and happy, to fill not just today’s gaps, but those of tomorrow.

We can do that by breaking down barriers that get in the way of people getting into, or returning to, work; boosting childcare provision and enhancing workplace health policies can both make a big difference.

We also have to be relentless in our pursuit of green growth.

The next Government must honour our climate commitments and catalyse private sector investment through a net-zero investment plan.

Here, the North East and Tees Valley proposition will no doubt stand out, with competitive business incentives and a delivery- focused operating environment.

Other crucial steps include measures to stimulate innovation and boosting the private/ public partnership required to deliver resilient public services.

We’d also wholly welcome trailblazer devolution deals to unlock more economic autonomy.


Sharon Grant, Director, North East Institute of Technology

I urge any Government to prioritise several key areas.

Firstly, addressing the pay disparity between college lecturers and schoolteachers is important for fostering fairness in education.

Secondly, funding for adult skills in shortage areas, outlined in Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs),

is essential to bridging skills gaps and stimulating economic growth.

Thirdly, urgent capital investment is needed to modernise educational facilities, particularly in technical education, to enhance building efficiency and accommodate more learners while ensuring equipment remains current to support learner work readiness.

Efforts should be focused on helping employers, from micro to global organisations, access available skills and innovation support.

With substantial capital invested by the current Government for technical facilities across the National Institute of Technology network, securing continued national and regional support is crucial to promoting and maximising this significant investment.

Clear, coherent progression pathways, from primary to higher education, and prioritising policies promoting diverse thinking and skills development are vital to dispelling misconceptions and misunderstandings about vocational education.

Aligning industry and skills strategies, and ensuring timely indications of economic growth from LSIPs and employer representative bodies, will also support more effective upskilling and reskilling initiatives.

Ultimately, a proactive approach is imperative to addressing evolving workforce needs and fostering a dynamic, responsive system benefiting both employers and learners.


Bob Borthwick, Director, Scott Bros

The next Government has a real opportunity to build upon the North East’s reputation for ingenuity and innovation by retaining ‘levelling-up’ as a central policy plank.

Prioritising and investing in infrastructure and innovation creates fresh economic opportunities and attracts additional investment.

Much of the aspiration behind ‘levelling-up’ was diminished by the financial fall-out from COVID-19 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – two events that also highlight the importance of establishing the UK’s sovereign capabilities in everything from manufacturing to technology.

Whatever its political hue, the next Government must continue the spirit of ‘levelling-up’, given the key role this region is playing in the country’s transition to a modern, low-carbon industrial economy.

As recycling specialists, we are currently working with Teesside University, supported by funding from Innovate UK, to commercialise a prototype brick we have engineered from recycled waste clay.

We are also collaborating on a similar project to develop low-carbon concrete.

If successful, both will have a major impact on the future sustainability of the UK’s construction industry, highlighting the importance of continued investment in supporting a circular economy.

By prioritising and encouraging research and development, investing in infrastructure and supporting ‘levelling-up’, the next Government can lead this region into a future defined by innovation, resilience and prosperity.


March 6, 2024

  • Ideas & Observations

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