A PARTNERSHIP which was set up to drive the Tees Valley is achieving growth - but at one of the slower rates in the UK.
But campaigners told of their ambition to bring 25,000 new jobs to the area by 2022.
A study of the performances of local enterprise partnerships, including the one serving Hartlepool, has been produced by the Office for National Statistics.
It shows the Tees Valley LEP area had the second lowest average annual growth rate in the country between 2008 and 2013 at 0.8 per cent. Only the Cheshire and Warrington LEP - with 0.6 per cent - performed worse.
But the news comes a time when Hartlepool is leading the way in the area’s jobs creation. Only yesterday, work began on more industrial units at the Queens Meadow Business Park because existing buildings were being snapped up so fast.
And Stephen Catchpole, the managing director of the LEP Tees Valley Unlimited, said: “Today’s ONS figures on productivity (Gross Value Added) show that the Tees Valley is growing, but demonstrate that there are obstacles that must be overcome to achieve our vision of a high-value, low carbon, diverse and inclusive economy.”
The GVA is the growth that an area has in its economic output relative to changes in the size of the population.
Mr Catchpole added: “While the gap remains between Tees Valley and the national average, productivity per worker here is high and for manufacturing is above the national average.
“The main reason for the gap between Tees Valley and the national average is that the area still has higher levels of unemployment, resulting in a lower overall contribution to GVA.
“The Tees Valley workforce is highly skilled and our key challenge, therefore, is to create more jobs for our residents, particularly in advanced manufacturing, digital and other growth industries, to close this gap.”
There was good news, said Mr Catchpole. “Recent ONS data shows that Tees Valley created over 4,000 jobs in a year, a positive step on the way towards meeting our goal of creating 25,000 new jobs by 2022.”
Hartlepool Council Leader Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher said: “In Hartlepool, working as part of the Tees Valley Local Enterprise Partnership, we have created the most successful Enterprise Zone in the Tees Valley - at Queen’s Meadow Business Park.
“Since Queens Meadow was given Enterprise Zone status 18 months ago, a host of new businesses have been attracted and others have expanded, bringing with them £2m of private sector investment and creating 130 new jobs.
“In a further indication of the excellent progress being made at Queens Meadow, we are today celebrating the formal start of work on a major new commercial development at the business park.”
Coun Akers-Belcher added: “We will continue to work with Tees Valley Unlimited to secure Government funding and attract private sector investment and jobs to Hartlepool and the wider Tees Valley.”
Local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) are partnerships in England between local authorities and businesses. They were created in 2011 and their role is to help shape local economic priorities and undertake activities to drive local economic growth and the creation of jobs.
A breakdown of the statistics shows Tees Valley LEP had the third lowest growth rate in the country in 2013, at 1.7 per cent; and the second lowest annual growth rate, between 2008-2013, at 0.8 per cent.
At the opposite end of the table, Greater Manchester, the Black Country, Greater Birmingham and Solihull, South East Midlands and London had the LEPs with the best performing growth rates in 2013.