North East Devolution and Levelling Up

Devolution Split Holds North East Back In Green Revolution

Jamie Driscoll, the North of Tyne’s Labour Mayor, is talking up his plan for a green economy in The Journal today, including a renewable energy grid. Fine. Who would disagree? 

Not Ben Houchen, the Conservative Mayor of Tees Valley, presumably, for isn’t that what recent developments in his area will be contributing to? Teesside is getting new port infrastructure for offshore wind projects, announced in the Budget on 3 March, and has already attracted GE Renewable Energy, which will build a facility at Teesworks for the manufacture of wind turbine blades. 

Driscoll wants £2.8bn for his plan, which he says will pay for itself in four years. Maybe. Is this £2.8bn plan, which can be found on the website of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP), in addition to the £1bn-plus that the same seven councils (the LA7) who are members of NELELP are also asking for? 

(Both these demands had disappeared from their respective websites, without explanation, by 5 May 2021).

Presumably it is, for the LA7’s bid is for investment mainly in connectivity, according to a statement it has issued. But no one really knows, for the secretive LA7 are not a formally constituted body, meet in private and publish no agendas, reports or minutes. And is it in addition to the £500m that Driscoll has said he wants to borrow for job creation, which he also says would pay for itself (News: Devolution: Driscoll wants to borrow £500m)?  That is also not clear, though as far as is known that aspiration still stands. 

Few deny that the North East needs investment, or that the nation and the world need a green industrial revolution, or that the North East, with its industrial history, is well placed to contribute to that revolution. But while Tees Valley is getting on with playing its part, thanks to its devolution deal and admittedly politically-motivated government support, the North East continues to make continuous, incoherent and futile pleas for funding. 

This is likely to remain the case as long as the LA7 fail to reunite as the NECA7 (North East Combined Authority 7), do a devolution deal and give the government confidence that they can be trusted to deliver value for public money.