Letter to the Editor: OECD report into Newcastle's economy and the response to the recession

August 21, 2009 10:40 AM

Further to coverage in today's Journal newspaper about the strengths of the public and private sectors in Newcastle's economy, Greg has written the following letter for publication:

Dear Editor

In today's Journal (21st Aug) the Labour (mis) leader of the Opposition on Newcastle City Council Nick Forbes is quoted as saying "The OECD said the same thing in 2005, when they looked at Newcastle's economy and told the council it has to reduce its public sector dependency. It would seem now that we have done nothing to prepare ourselves for this and are without the leadership we need to avoid the worst of the recession." He also claims that "feared public sector spending cuts have not come yet", conveniently ignoring recent Government cuts to arts, regeneration, and transport funds for the North East.

Leaving aside his belated acceptance of the reality of the recession - he criticised the Lib Dems a few months ago for being "publicly pessimistic" about the state of the economy- I feel that Cllr Forbes has forgotten his own comments reported in the Journal on February 12th 2007, when he attacked the city council's response to the OECD report into Tyneside's economy. At the time, he robustly opposed the idea that the private sector should be stronger, and accused the council of having a "secret agenda" to privatise the council's workforce.

That dire prediction has been shown to be unfounded; instead the council has implemented a radical transformation programme to improve efficiency with the support of the trade unions but without that of the Labour Opposition. At the same time it has introduced plans for a "Bank of Newcastle" to provide access to loans for local businesses, brought in business rate relief schemes, taken innovative steps to boost local employment and apprenticeships, and safeguarded thousands of jobs by acquiring Northern Rock House and leasing it to Eaga plc. Cllr Forbes was strongly against this decision and tried to block the deal.

While the Lib Dem council has been commended both locally and nationally for its response to the recession, Cllr Forbes has only managed to produce confused and contradictory attacks. Newcastle is better off without his opportunist style of "leadership".

Yours sincerely

Cllr Greg Stone

Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesman for Newcastle East