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North misses out on roads money as cuts bite

Richard Moss | 13:15 UK time, Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Planned bridge over the Wear

Artists impression of the proposed new bridge in Sunderland. Funding for it is now uncertain.

There was little cheer for the region in yesterday's announcement on road schemes.

Not a single one of those approved was in the North East and Cumbria and some important projects were stuck firmly at the back of a very long queue.

Among the casualties were plans to improve the A19 north and south of the Tyne.

The plan was to improve key junctions on the road to cope with the increased traffic expected when the second Tyne Tunnel opens.

But the Department for Transport says the improvements north and south of the Tunnel will not be looked at until at least 2015.

That has angered Labour MPs on either side of the Tyne, who say the decision has effectively undone much of the benefit the region will get from the second Tunnel.

The North East Chamber of Commerce has also accused the Government of ignoring the region's roads even though they're crying out for investment.

There's also uncertainty about other plans, including the Morpeth Northern bypass, and bus lane improvements across Tyne and Wear.

The Department for Transport says it will need to study those bids further before deciding what to do with them.

And the planned new bridge over the Wear in Sunderland is on a list of 20 other schemes competing for £600m, so is by no means certain to go ahead.

There was no mention of any plan to dual the A1 in Northumberland even though the Government is planning to make it a road of "national significance". Any improvements again appear to be a long way off.

And improvements to the A1 at Leeming Bar in North Yorkshire will also be examined further before any decision is made.

Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts

The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts in Gateshead has had its funding cut by more than £168,000.

There's been some bad news for arts organisations too, who found out how much they'll lose.

Around £1m will be lost in total, but the biggest losers were the two high-profile organisations on the Tyne in Gateshead.

The North Music Trust, effectively The Sage Gateshead, loses almost £280,000. Its neighbour, the Baltic, loses £168,000.

Other big losers include Newcastle's Northern Stage, (£94,000), Live Theatre (£40,000), and Dance City (£29,000).

To add to the air of gloom, Newcastle City Council has also revealed the impact of the Spending Review on its finances.

It will have to save £110m over the next four years, including £50m in the first year. There'll be at least 1,000 job losses, potentially rising to 2,000.

The focus tomorrow moves to the flip side of cuts though, with the announcement of the Government's plan to encourage economic growth in northern regions (although apparently what used to be a region now has to be called a sub-national area).

The Local Growth White Paper will reveal more details about the £1.4bn Regional Growth Fund, and it looks likely the Government will approve up to 20 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).

They're the successors to the Regional Development Agencies, and the Government hopes they will help generate private sector growth.

It's likely the North East will get two (one for the Tees Valley, and one for the rest of the region). Cumbria may also get one.

It does seem though they will have no money to get them going. In fact they'll only be as good as the funds they help extract from the Regional Growth Fund for local businesses.


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