Whitehall vs North East: Tug of war over hundreds of million of pounds
Funny what you find out... There is a huge tug of war going on over assets worth hundreds of millions of pounds.
They are currently held by the region's development agency, but a little birdie tells me that national bodies want to snatch them.
That includes a ÃÂ£125m investment fund set up specifically to boost business in the North East as development agencies are axed.
I understand business chiefs have met officials from the Department for Business (BIS) to discuss whether a new regional economic partnership could take over key assets.
A ÃÂ£125m fund to help finance business in the region is one of the assets being fought over.
It is supported by the European Investment Bank (EIB) - but is predicted to produce a ÃÂ£100m legacy once the bank has been repaid.
Other funds could be worth as much as ÃÂ£50m to the region, if Whitehall does not bring them into the national funding pot.
The future of a number of private-public property partnerships worth around ÃÂ£150m set up by One North East also remain unclear.
Meanwhile, Business Minister Mark Prisk has been handed the job of overseeing local enterprise partnerships. He went before the Commons business, skills and innovation committee last week.
His comments were interesting given speculation about the new partnerships, which ministers say will be more effective than development agencies - bringing together local council and business chiefs.
He refused to say which LEPs had been approved, despite frustration about delays and fears key projects could stall.
MPs were told to expect more details in a"few weeks" with a White Paper on local economic development due out in the autumn.
That is despite Business Secretary Vince Cable telling the committee in July that the White Paper, also containing details of the ÃÂ£1bn regional growth fund, would be released in the summer.
Doubts also emerged over whether the region will see any benefits from valuable assets held by One North East after the Government admitted it will take years to sort out the portfolio of RDAs.
And Mr Prisk appeared to contradict his Liberal Democrat boss by ruling out the possibility of LEPs have direct control over inward investment.
The job of attracting overseas companies will by handled by national body UKTI despite fears of a bias towards London and the South East.
Addressing committee chairman Adrian Bailey, the minister said: "There has to be a transition. It is not going to be neat from a central point of view."
"But the key thing we are very much focussed on is doing our level best to make sure that amongst those many contracts and obligations, and assets and liabilities that we are very carefully focussed on not dropping too many balls.
"I can't guarantee to you chairman that I won't drop any. I'd like to do that, but I suspect we will. It is very complex, there are several thousand contractual relationships involved. But we are doing our best."
He also warned it was impossible to save "everything" because the economy had changed and that some projects agreed in previous years were no longer viable.
Mr Prisk suggested national body UKTI would take charge of inward investment, but could have a regional presence.
But he admitted no plans were yet worked out and confirmed leadership of key sectors will be "nationalised" - despite the North East leading the way on green businesses, such as offshore wind energy and electric cars.
Proposals about how LEPs could secure vital European regeneration cash are still under development.
Vince Cable stressed the Government was not being "prescriptive" about exactly what LEPs would do heappeared before the same committee in July.
Asked why the process was being "hurried", Mr Prisk insisted it wasthe right time to change the nature of development agencies to make them"relevant".
It was essential to ensure the new partnerships were based around "real" geographical areasto rebalance the economy with a local focus and improve accountability, said the minister.
He added the coalition had decided against issuing a "Whitehall diktat" onwhat it wanted.
"We feel that making this shift now, yes it's prompt, it'snot overly hasty because we felt that it was important that we actually say to local communities what are your priorities," said Mr Prisk.