The woman who has just retired as Newcastle City Council’s chief executive has spoken of her regret at the failure of North East Combined Authority (NECA) to do a devolution deal with the government in 2016.
Pat Ritchie was one of the architects of the deal that would have covered all seven councils in the North East (Tees Valley excluded).
She said in an interview with Daniel Holland of the Local Democracy Reporting Service, carried in ChronicleLive, that she still regrets the acrimonious collapse of the region-wide deal that would have covered Gateshead, Sunderland, South Tyneside, and County Durham as well as Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland, which went on the sign their own North of Tyne deal.
She said a deal covering all the councils – which have now formed an informal group known as the LA7, without any of the powers, responsibilities or funding of a devolution deal – could have put the North East ‘so much further ahead’ than today.
While Ms Ritchie holds ‘no regrets’ about the northern trio going it alone, she expressed hopes in her interview with Daniel Holland that old wounds could be mended and a new deal put back on the table – believing there is still ‘everything to play for’.
She added: ‘I am absolutely a regionalist and I do believe that the North East should be together. I think the politicians in Newcastle, Northumberland, and North Tyneside were really brave in continuing with the North of Tyne and saying that they thought it was the right thing to do for residents. That has paid off.
‘Could it have been more? Of course. Should it have been the whole of the region? I think it undoubtedly should have been the seven.’
Pat Ritchie’s interview can be read in full in ChronicleLive here. The story of the collapse of NECA’s 2016 devolution deal is told in full in chapter 4 of this author’s thesis here. This website has been campaigning for a 2016-style deal for the North East since it was set up in January 2021.