Borderlands Initiative will be a unique opportunity to drive growth in our area

Statement on the Borderlands initiative from the Leader of Northumberland County Council, Councillor Peter Jackson, Tuesday 25 September 2018

This Council Administration started on day one, seeking a better deal for Northumberland and a better future for everyone who lives here.  Two initiatives will be key to economic growth in the future: the North of Tyne Devolution deal, worth £600m to the area and the new Borderlands deal, which will drive growth through co-operation betwen councils on both sides of the border. Leading Northumberland County Council, I have personally committed a great deal to the success of both initiatives, but would also like to pay tribute to all of those from Northumberland County Council who have contributed.

In November last year, the Chancellor of the Exchequer presented the Borderlands area as a unique opportunity to negotiate an Inclusive Growth Deal for one million residents who live in the areas that will benefit from the deal.

The Borderlands Intiative is modelled on previous deals made between the government and major cities, but there are a number of aspects which make this deal unique::

  • The Borderlands area extends over a geographical area that is larger than Wales, covering 10% of the UK's land area. Unlike city deals, which cover smaller urban areas this deal is based on the challenges faced by vast rural areas like ours.
  • It is characterised by a distributed network of relatively small towns and villages, so there will be something for every community, no matter how small.
  • It covers an area of exeptional natural beauty, so will help us make the most of the things that make us a desirable place to work and visit.
  • It spans the Anglo-Scottish Border and lies at the heart of the United Kingdom, givng us the opportunity to make the most of our talented individuals, no matter where they come from.
  • The Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal is the first cross-Border collaboration of its kind.  Its sheer scale and rurality requires a bespoke and balanced investment approach to deliver real impact and lasting change through the inclusive growth potential of our communities.

I, together with the other Council Leaders in the Borderlands Partnership, have fully embraced this opportunity.  We have collectively developed an ambitious proposal that we believe will assist us in driving productivity growth, investing in talent, providing a supportive business environment, and harnessing our quality of life.

We want to accelerate the reach of uniformly high quality digital capability and mobile signal coverage so that we match UK levels of digital connectivity and make sure that no place is left behind.Through the Borderlands deal we will aim to achieve everyone has access to high-speed broadband, and the area has 100% 4G mobile phone coverage.

We want to be at the forefront of the UK’s shift to low carbon sources and secure an affordable energy future.

We want our towns and villages to be economically vibrant, resilient to change, and attractive as places to live - particularly for those of working age.  Place based funding as per Amble. Other towns in County step change.

We want to strengthen our national and international profile, with the Borderlands being increasingly renowned for the breadth and quality of its tourism product and experiences.  Work together on tourism eg region wide network of off-road cycle routes. Prime area for activity holidays. Wooler and Hexham. Build on Rural Growth Hubs. Small Business factories in every large Town in County.  Maintain and extend offer right along Hadrian’s Wall.

We want to stimulate innovation, ambition and learning through establishment of a unique network of knowledge exchange hubs.

And we want to invest in key business sites and infrastructure to accommodate further business growth and diversification.

Our proposals to construct an iconic new theatre and conference centre in Berwick illustrates the strength of our vision.  I believe this investment - which will allow the internationally-renowned programme of The Maltings to be expanded - will kick-start a cultural transformation of the town.

I also believe that the Deal will lead to a new relationship with Whitehall and Holyrood.  As part of this we want to develop a collaborative partnership to work jointly with the UK and Scottish Governments progress strategic transport schemes.

We also want to work with the two Governments to showcase how the full value of our extensive land and marine assets can be realised in the successor arrangements to the Common Agricultural Policy.

We still have work to do. The next step is to negotiate with the two Governments to translate our Proposal into a “Heads of Terms” that will confirm the investment quantum of the Deal and the broad scope of the programmes and projects that the investment will focus on.  These will bring significant benefits to communities across the Borderlands area.

I, and my fellow Leaders within the Borderlands Partnership, are committed to getting the best outcome for our area - and we’ll be pushing for confirmation of the Deal from the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget Statement later this year.

From a Northumberland perspective, this administration will continue to work tirelessly to optimise the positive impact of the Deal - and other economic growth opportunities as they emerge - for the benefit of our communities and businesses.  We remain committed to bringing more and better jobs to the county; to raising educational attainment; and to improving access. We want Northumberland to be a great place to live, work, learn and to do business.

We are making a difference.

Thank you.