A NORTH-East business organisation has called on the chancellor to power up the North in a letter ahead of budget.

The North East of England Chamber of Commerce (NEECC) delivered a letter to Chancellor of the Exchequer calling on government to narrow the gap between the North and South, outlining demands for the upcoming budget.

The organisation represents around 3,000 businesses across the region covering both local enterprise partnerships, including business of all sizes and sectors that employ over one-third of the North-East's workforce.

'Experience teaches us to be wary'

“The conservatives have returned to power on the back of pledges to increase investment in regions such as ours and level up economic performance," James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the chamber, said in the letter.

"While we welcome these pledges, experience teaches us to be wary of such commitments until we see tangible activity and bold decision making on the part of the government.

"Our region cannot afford to be left in the slow lane while the necessary changed in government thinking and spending priorities fail to materialise."

The letter, dated February 12, addressed then-chancellor Sajid Javid. He has since been replaced in the cabinet by Richmond MP Rishi Sunak.

'Seize the opportunity to make a real difference'

Recognising the North-East's "tremendous contribution" to the automotive, digital technology and renewable energy sectors, the letter urged the government to "recognise our potential".

Calling for decisive action and investment, the NEECC demands first-rate connectivity from the North to the UK and rest of world, plans to overcome worrying trends of unemployment, upgrades to the East Coast Main Line and a commitment to working with local politicians.

The upcoming budget, which is the first since the re-election of the conservatives, Brexit and the government's statement of commitment to HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, must "seize the opportunity" and "make a real difference to business and growth".

Supporting rail, high streets and politicians

In terms of infrastructure, the "integral" but "struggling" East Coast Main Line should be the "utmost importance" before "problems become unmanageable".

"Essential" safety and reliability improvements on the A66 and A69 transpennine routes, the A19/A189 Moor Farm junction and the news Tees Crossing, as well as the development of plans for a A1 dualling to Scotland, must also be made.

At a local level, the NEECC demands policy is used to ensure town centres are attractive places to start a business. To do this, review of business rates must be “comprehensive and radical".

Collaboration between public and private sectors must be encouraged, as attempts to boost productivity and research and development must include "strong links" between industry and universities.

Government must show commitment to the North-East

Mr Ramsbotham calls out the government's "extremely poor" approach to engagement and consultation on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), which must recognise the North-East's specific challenges, regarding deprivation and lower economic performance.

“By including these proposals in the statement, your government can show it is serious about levelling up regions such as ours," the letter finalised.