No new deal without Northumberland – mayor

North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll has said that he will not do a new devolution deal bringing in the south of Tyne councils if it means dropping Northumberland from the existing agreement.

‘Absolutely not’ he said in an interview with Northern Agenda. He said he would love it if the leaders of Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland joined a new mayoral authority but would not dissolve the existing agreement between Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland under any circumstances.

His remarks follow those of the Northumberland leader, Councillor Glen Sanderson, on November 1 that ‘we have a long way to go before we could consider becoming part of a combined authority with all the councils along with a mayor’. Councillor Sanderson may be nervous of joining an agreement with the south of Tyne councils for fear that they back out again at a late stage, as happened in 2016.

Mayor Driscoll’s omission of any mention of including County Durham in a new deal suggests it is moving closer to a go-it-alone county deal, as this website speculated might be the case as long ago as March 11.

Driscoll’s ideas for a new deal include a £500m regional wealth fund, as first revealed by this website on January 21. His plans have been further developed in a paper published by the Royal Society of Arts and reported here on October 25.

Driscoll has been consistently making the case for a seven-council deal since at least the start of 2021.

The North East Combined Authority (NECA), representing the south of Tyne four, met on September 14 and the minutes record that ‘members discussed the cruciality of agreeing a devolution deal with central government that works for the whole NECA area and region’. So, talks drag on, but without any apparent tangible results.