Jeremy Middleton, founder of Middleton Enterprises

In the last of a series of articles looking at the ways the North East devolution deal and strong mayoral leadership can boost the region, Jeremy Middleton looks at why ideas must come from all areas.

If the North East is going to become a more prosperous region, we need to ensure that everyone has an input.

We have a significant element of our regional leadership in place, through the North East Combined Authority (NECA) and the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP), and we all know that it is part of the Government’s Manifesto that we must accept a mayor if we want further devolved powers.

However, it would be a missed opportunity of criminal proportions for the future of our region, if we were to exclusively rely upon these people and groups to come up with all of the ideas and answers to drive devolution and deliver upon the powers we are to receive.

The devolution deal for the North East transfers many powers to NECA, but that doesn’t mean the authority should make all of the decisions. On the contrary, it's vital that the wider north east is not just "consulted" but is properly involved in deciding what should be done and in making things happen.

There is an impressive wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise throughout this region, which must be tapped. This comes not only from politics on a local and regional level, but from business, finance, education, academia, the voluntary sector, philanthropy, community leadership and much more.

Most of us, whatever our background, will have thought of some way in which we believe the region can be improved. This could involve better transport links, wider availability of superfast broadband, easier access to finance, more consistently-delivered levels of higher quality education, better promotion of our region to foreign visitors and inward investors, or something completely different.

It is vital that these ideas are put forward, because they represent the real needs of the North East. They are based upon the real experiences of the very people we want to become more prosperous as part of the future growing wealth of the region.

There is a role to play for business people, transport bosses, universities, colleges and more, in influencing the way we drive our region forward.

There has already been a very welcome invitation from Councillor Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council, for business leaders to contribute to the debate. However, the full potential of devolution can only be realised by casting the net even wider.

It is going to be another two years before devolution starts to really take hold, so we have time for these ideas to be put forward, considered and, where possible, developed, so that when that time comes, we have something tangible to work with.

An independent platform and network is currently being developed, backed by a number of significant people from across the region, to serve as a resource for such ideas to be submitted and made available for the politicians and civil servants to consider. This will be unveiled imminently, but will only achieve its true potential to influence change if everybody engages with the process and contributes their ideas on how things could be better.

The aim is to encourage individuals from diverse political backgrounds to get involved in well-researched and informed policy debates made necessary by the impending changes brought about by devolution.

It will encourage, research and promote new ideas and inform policy discussion that is based upon the real experiences and needs of the region.

Let’s make this as inclusive a process as is possible, with ideas coming from all parts of society, from all seven local authority areas, pooling our collective experience and creativity for a brighter, stronger, more prosperous future.

Simply moving decision making from one set of politicians and civil servants in London to another lot in Newcastle won't change that much. Developing better ways of doing things, using the best people we have, just might change a lot.

Jeremy Middleton is founder of Middleton Enterprises, a £50m investment company based on Tyneside. He is also a board member of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.

ENDS

ISSUED ON BEHALF OF MIDDLETON ENTERPRISES

CONTACT: Paul White on 01325 363436

Notes to Editors:

Middleton Enterprises Ltd is a private investment company that has made a substantial contribution to the North East’s economy by investing in and providing business advice to entrepreneurial businesses.

During recent years, it has supported a number of North East businesses, generally from start-up, usually taking a minority stake and offering strategic advice to support growth.

Jeremy Middleton

Mr Middleton is a high-profile entrepreneur and philanthropist based in Newcastle. He started his career as a Brand Manager at Procter & Gamble before working for PriceWaterhouseCoopers as a Marketing Consultant. He co-founded HomeServe, now a FTSE 250 company which operates in the UK, the USA, France, Spain and Italy, and remains a shareholder with a seat on the Executive Committee. He is a director at North East based energy and water consultancy company Utilitywise PLC.

Mr Middleton and his family are active supporters of Maggie’s Centre and World Vision, an international charity which works to improve the lives of people in developing countries.

Mr Middleton has carried out a range of sponsored fundraising for a variety of charities which to date include the North Pole, Mount Kilimanjaro, Mont Blanc, The Haute Route, Mount McKinley, Mount Elbrus and a cycle ride from London to Paris.

Mr Middleton has been a Board Member of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) since 2011 and is Chairman of the North East LEP Investment Fund, which makes recommendations to the LEP Board for the £25m Growing Places Fund and the £30m Infrastructure Fund.

In 2012 Jeremy was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for Services to Politics and Charities.

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Jeremy Middleton, founder of Middleton Enterprises
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