Northumberland council leader sets out 'ambitious' Borderlands aims

Northumberland County Council leader Peter Jackson.
Northumberland County Council leader Peter Jackson.

The Chancellor will be pushed to confirm the Borderlands deal, which ‘will bring significant benefits to communities’, in his Budget Statement this autumn.

The Borderlands Partnership brings together Carlisle City Council, Cumbria County Council, Dumfries and Galloway Council, Northumberland County Council and Scottish Borders Council to promote the economic growth of the area that straddles the border.

Digital connectivity, business growth and diversification, becoming a prime area for activity holidays and a ‘unique network of knowledge hubs’ to take higher and further education into rural communities are some of the aims, according to Northumberland County Council leader Peter Jackson.

Northumberland councillors are discussing the content of the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal in meetings this week.

These are being held in private, due to the limited amount of information which can be put out publicly ahead of the final discussions with the UK and Scottish Governments.

However, Coun Jackson has put out a statement which provides an update on how the deal is progressing and some of what it hopes to achieve.

“The Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal is the first cross-border collaboration of its kind,” he said. “Its sheer scale and rurality requires a bespoke and balanced investment approach to deliver real impact and lasting change through the inclusive growth potential of our communities.

“I, together with the other council leaders in the Borderlands Partnership, have fully embraced this opportunity.

“We have collectively developed an ambitious proposal that we believe will assist us in driving productivity growth, investing in talent, providing a supportive business environment, and harnessing our quality of life.”

Goals include 100 per cent 4G mobile-phone coverage across the area and positioning the Borderlands at the forefront of the UK’s shift to low-carbon energy.

The desire is for towns and villages to be ‘economically vibrant, resilient to change and attractive as places to live – particularly for those of working age’ and for the area’s national and international profile to be strengthened.

Coun Jackson said that a new relationship with the UK and Scottish Governments will result in a partnership to progress strategic transport schemes and a chance to showcase how ‘the full value of our extensive land and marine assets can be realised in the successor arrangements to the Common Agricultural Policy’.

He added: “From a Northumberland perspective, this administration will continue to work tirelessly to optimise the positive impact of the deal – and other economic growth opportunities as they emerge – for the benefit of our communities and businesses.

“Our proposals to construct an iconic new theatre and conference centre in Berwick illustrates the strength of our vision.

“I believe this investment – which will allow the internationally-renowned programme of The Maltings to be expanded – will kick-start a cultural transformation of the town.”

Coun Jackson’s statement in full

“This administration has been working from day one for a better deal for Northumberland and a better future for everyone who lives here. This includes the £600million North of Tyne devolution deal and the new Borderlands deal.

“In November last year, the Chancellor of the Exchequer presented the Borderlands area with a unique opportunity to negotiate an Inclusive Growth Deal for its two million residents.

“Although based on the approach previously only applied by the Government to cities, it has to be recognised that this would be no ordinary deal. The Borderlands extends over a geographical area that is larger than Wales – 10 per cent of the UK land area.

“It is characterised by a distributed network of relatively small towns and villages. It has unrivalled natural capital stretching from coast to coast. It spans the Anglo-Scottish Border and lies at the heart of the United Kingdom.

“The Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal is the first cross-border collaboration of its kind. Its sheer scale and rurality requires a bespoke and balanced investment approach to deliver real impact and lasting change through the inclusive growth potential of our communities.

“I, together with the other council leaders in the Borderlands Partnership, have fully embraced this opportunity. We have collectively developed an ambitious proposal that we believe will assist us in driving productivity growth, investing in talent, providing a supportive business environment, and harnessing our quality of life.

We want to accelerate the reach of uniformly high quality digital capability and mobile signal coverage so that we match UK levels of digital connectivity and make sure that no place is left behind. The main ask is for 100 per cent 4G mobile phone coverage.

“We want to be at the forefront of the UK’s shift to low carbon sources and secure an affordable energy future.

“We want our towns and villages to be economically vibrant, resilient to change, and attractive as places to live – particularly for those of working age. We’re committed to place-based funding; we’ve seen how successful that has been in the regeneration of Amble and we want other towns in the county to follow this step change.

“We want to strengthen our national and international profile, with the Borderlands being increasingly renowned for the breadth and quality of its tourism product and experiences. We will work together on tourism, for example, a region-wide network of off-road cycle routes. We want to build on Rural Growth Hubs, have small business factories in every large town in the county. We want to maintain and extend the offer right along Hadrian’s Wall.

“We want to stimulate innovation, ambition and learning through establishment of a unique network of knowledge exchange hubs.

“And we want to invest in key business sites and infrastructure to accommodate further business growth and diversification.

“Our proposals to construct an iconic new theatre and conference centre in Berwick illustrates the strength of our vision. I believe this investment – which will allow the internationally-renowned programme of The Maltings to be expanded – will kick-start a cultural transformation of the town.

“I also believe that the deal will lead to a new relationship with Whitehall and Holyrood. As part of this we want to develop a collaborative partnership to work jointly with the UK and Scottish Governments to progress strategic transport schemes.

“We also want to work with the two Governments to showcase how the full value of our extensive land and marine assets can be realised in the successor arrangements to the Common Agricultural Policy.

“We still have work to do.

“The next step is to negotiate with the two Governments to translate our proposal into a heads of terms that will confirm the investment quantum of the deal and the broad scope of the programmes and projects that the investment will focus on. These will bring significant benefits to communities across the Borderlands area.

“I, and my fellow leaders within the Borderlands Partnership, are committed to getting the best outcome for our area – and we’ll be pushing for confirmation of the deal from the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget Statement later this year.

“From a Northumberland perspective, this administration will continue to work tirelessly to optimise the positive impact of the deal – and other economic growth opportunities as they emerge – for the benefit of our communities and businesses. We remain committed to bringing more and better jobs to the county, to raising educational attainment, and to improving access. We want Northumberland to be a great place to live, work, learn and to do business.

“We are making a difference.”

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service