North East Devolution and Levelling Up
Penshaw Monument

Mayor confirms new devolution deal details

It’s official! North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll has confirmed most details of the new, expanded North East devolution deal being negotiated by council leaders and the government and revealed here last week.

‘[W]e’re negotiating with government for a bigger Mayoral Combined Authority (MCA) here in the North East,’ he writes in his weekly column in The Journal.

‘For the past three years I’ve been working with the leaders of our local authorities to arrive at a joint “ask”’

Three years! Just think of the opportunities the North East has lost in that time. Just think, for a start, of the multi-million pound investment fund that has not been going to areas south of the Tyne. Think of the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement that even now could have been bringing the region around £600m but instead is sitting in Treasury coffers waiting for our squabbling, sluggish council leaders to get their act together.

The fact that Mayor Driscoll has been trying all that time to get his colleagues to agree on a joint ‘ask’ of the government exposes, if it were needed, the divisions that continue to split the North East’s leaders six years after they voted 4-3 to reject a previous devolution offer from the government.

Among the features of a new deal reported on this site last week and now confirmed by Driscoll is that the regional leaders want a s much funding per head of population as is at present going to North of Tyne – which means at least £35m a year.

‘It [the North of Tyne deal] is already the highest per capita devolution deal, so government are reluctant to scale it up’, writes Driscoll.

Also reported here and confirmed is that funding is being sought for the Metro. ‘Capital spending for the Tyne & Wear Metro comes from central government – as it should’, writes Driscoll. ‘We want this to continue, and not have the Metro eat up the new devolved transport money’.

Driscoll reveals that he met Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Simon Clark last week to discuss the deal.

‘I’ll be discussing the details with my fellow local leaders before publishing it here [in The Journal]’ he writes, ‘but suffice to say both ministers see the benefits of a win-win’.

Driscoll sounds optimistic, but those who remember the rows lasting almost 12 months that eventually led to the rejection of the 2015-16 deal cannot be so sanguine. It would be a good start if the six councils concerned – those in Northumberland and Tyne & Wear – at least debated devolution in public so their voters have a chance to hear what is going on.