Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 437-439)


18 MAY 2004

  Q437 Mr Betts: Good morning. Welcome to the Committee. Perhaps for the sake of our records you could introduce yourselves.

  Mr Sugden: I am Andrew Sugden. I am Director of Policy and Representation at the North East Chamber of Commerce. The North East Chamber of Commerce represents 5,000 businesses in the North East of England with a remit to achieve more business, secure better conditions for business and enable our members to do more profitable business.

  Mr James: My name is Tim James. I am the Area Manager for the North East Chamber of Commerce for the area of Tyne & Wear. My responsibility is to look after the representational interests of 230 members. I work with five metropolitan authorities. I also work with the police and the fire authority. I have been with the Chamber for 21 years and I have 10 years experience in local government consultations with the business community. I am also familiar with the situation that prevailed before the national non-domestic rate. I am a member of the Valuation Office Agency Panel for Newcastle and Gateshead, which is engaged with making sure businesses understand the revaluation process. Our policy is really to have constructive engagement with local authorities, bringing the private sector view to bear.

  Mr Shakeshaft: I am Phil Shakeshaft. I am the Head of Strategy with the Regional Development Agency One North East for the four counties Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, Durham and the Tees Valley in the North East of England.

  Q438 Mr Betts: Do any of you have anything to say by way of introduction or can we go straight into questions?

  Mr Sugden: We particularly welcome the opportunity to contribute to the Committee from the North East Chamber of Commerce's point of view, representing the views of a large number of businesses in an economically challenged part of the world.

  Q439 Mr O'Brien: Could I put to both your organisations the question of the economic development in the North East. What are the main problems facing the region? Are they helped by the present system of local government finance and organisation, do you think?

  Mr Shakeshaft: There are a number of problems but the seriously significant ones are the lack or low levels of business stock in the region and the low rate of growth. The national rate of growth of the business stock is about 5.7% and in the North East it is 1.7%. In some areas it is nearly 20%.

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