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LABOUR HAS NEGLECTED THE NORTH EAST

September 16, 2008 9:23 AM

Newcastle Liberal Democrat leader John Shipley has criticised the Labour Government for failing the North East.

Mr Shipley told a fringe event at the Liberal Democrat conference in Bournemouth that Labour has held back the region by failing to upgrade its transport network.

He also accused Labour of instead ploughing billions of pounds into projects, such as the Crossrail scheme, in London and the South East - at the expense of the North East.

He also criticised Prime Minister Gordon Brown for cutting £34 million from the region's development agency budget, saying the cash was being used to fund the Prime Minister's recently-announced housing rescue package in the South East.

Referring to the unfair funding of transport projects, he said: "It actually causes me a great deal of worry and the electorate has noticed.

"There are five Northern cities, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, Hull and Newcastle that all now have Liberal Democrat leaders. And I think that says a very great deal about what the electorates think of a Labour Government for which the last 11 years has been in power and in a position to do a lot in support of the North of England."

Mr Shipley acknowledged the risk of a "whinge factor" but warned that did not mean avoiding the truth, with Treasury rules proving a "real hindrance" to overcoming the South East's economic dominance.

"Treasury rules require payback in terms of economic development, things like number of jobs generated in a short period of time. So Crossrail will always give you a faster return on Government investment than high speed rail to the North of England and let's just add Scotland to that for this is a United Kingdom. It will always give you a faster, quicker, higher return."

He also suggested South East regional development agencies should be axed because their purpose was unclear after ministers took £34 million from the North East's development budget to pay for housing rescue measures in the South East.