Mixed views over bid to fuel growth

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CHANCELLOR George Osborne’s Budget has been met with a mixed response from civic leaders in Hartlepool.

Mayor Stuart Drummond welcomed plans to create an Enterprise Zone – which aims to create new investment – in the Tees Valley and the move to cut the fuel duty by 1p a litre.

But he said the £100m pot of cash to repair potholes, which Hartlepool Borough Council will receive part of, did not go far enough and called for a long term solution to improve the roads.

Meanwhile, town MP Iain Wright said he thought families and businesses would be disappointed with the Budget and raised concerns over how many new jobs the Enterprise Zone could create in town.

The Chancellor announced the Budget in front of a packed House of Commons and said he would put “fuel into the tank of the economy” by cutting corporation tax and reducing the price of petrol.

Mr Osborne said: “Last year’s emergency Budget was about rescuing the nation’s finances, and paying for the mistakes of the past.

“This Budget is about reforming the nation’s economy, so that we have enduring growth and jobs in the future.

“And it’s about doing what we can to help families with the cost of living and the high oil price.

“This will not end the pressure on family Budgets but we’ve done what we can to help.”

Key points include:

l Funding for 21 Enterprise Zones will be made available to encourage new investment, with one in the Tees Valley;

l A £100m pot of cash to repair potholes;

l Increasing the personal allowance to £8,105 will see more than one million taxpayers in the North-East gain by £48 a year in 2012-13;

l Financial help for 10,000 first-time buyers to get on the property ladder;

l 100,000 new work experience places and 40,000 apprenticeships. An estimated 6,200 young people in the North-East could benefit.

Mayor Drummond said: “Hopefully the Enterprise Zone will include land in Hartlepool, but we will have to wait and see what the boundaries are going to be.

“The cut in fuel duty is welcome as it affects almost everyone in Hartlepool, but whether it will make much difference to the cost in the long term we will have to wait and see.”

Mayor Drummond also welcomed the move to create more apprenticeships after funding had recently been pulled from that area.

The town’s MP said: “It was pitched as a Budget for growth and I was hoping to see some big announcements and real stimulus for this area, but there was very little and that is hugely disappointing.

“It was a bit of a non-Budget and a lot of people will be disappointed that the Chancellor didn’t go even further to help motorists.”

Mr Wright also raised fears that the Enterprise Zone wouldn’t create any jobs in Hartlepool.

He added: “My worry is that we had one of these in town in the 1980s and it didn’t really work and this appears to be a watered down version.”

The Government has given the Enterprise Zone to the Tees Valley region as a whole and councils must work together to choose the most viable option.

The dockland area in Hartlepool is one potential area.

Linda Edworthy, director of policy and strategy at Tees Valley Unlimited, said: “The announcement that an Enterprise Zone is to be created in Tees Valley is great news and a move which we believe could stimulate the growth of this area’s economy.

“We will now be holding further talks with our partners and government to identify the best location for the zone.”