North East Devolution and Levelling Up

Mayor hoping for devolution deal soon

North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll is hoping for a new North East devolution deal ‘soon’.

Reflecting on his record so far in his weekly column in The Journal today, the mayor lists the ‘good results’ he says he has landed, adding: ‘And a massive amount of progress on a new devolution deal – to be announced soon, I hope’.

No details of the possible deal are given – not even whether it will include County Durham –  which may do a go-it-alone county deal or even join the Tees Valley Combined Authority –  or only the six councils in Northumberland and Tyne & Wear.

We know no more about the content of the deal than we did on June 28, when this site reported speculation that it would amount to £3bn of investment over 30 years including a £35m-a -year grant, £900m for transport by 2027 and control of the £44m adult education budget, all as well as leveraging in £3.7bn of private sector investment.

There could also be power to introduce bus franchising to give councillors control over services and fares, ability to establish mayoral development corporations like Teesworks and to build 2,700 new homes.

COMMENT

Mayor Driscoll has been talking up the prospects for a new North East devolution deal since this website started publishing in January 2021. But the decision is not his. It is the leaders of Gateshead, South Tyneside, Sunderland and perhaps County Durham, who rejected a deal in 2016, who must change their minds this time. And we have no idea what they think.

Even more depends on the approach to devolution and levelling up of the new prime minister whose identity will be announced within little more than an hour of this post. With other matters on his or her mind – not least the cost-of-living crisis – devolution is highly unlikely to be a priority. And even if it goes ahead there is unlikely to be much funding to support it.

Hope may spring eternal in the breast of Mayor Driscoll, but that does not mean the North East will be blest with a deal just yet.