North East Devolution and Levelling Up

North East political leaders welcome move to new devolution deals

Political leaders of the six councils north and south of the Tyne have joined business leaders in welcoming the prospect of a new devolution deal for the region announced in yesterday’s Levelling Up White Paper.

“At the end of the day, we must get an agreed deal. There is £650m of transport money that we can’t access if we don’t’, Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council and chair of the North East Combined Authority (NECA) told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) and reported in ChronicleLive.

He hoped that a new devolution deal could be agreed that would allow a shadow combined authority to be set up with interim leadership before a mayoral election in May 2024.

NECA represents the three south of Tyne councils of Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland as well as County Durham, which has been invited by the government to discuss a separate go-it-alone county devolution deal.

The North of Tyne Cabinet, representing Northumberland, North Tyneside and Newcastle, also welcomed the government’s commitment to open dialogue on plans for further devolution in the North East.

North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll said: “This is a resounding vote of confidence in our achievements so far. The mayoral combined authority model works…But to make more impact we need more cash. This is a long-term plan that will need long term funding to match it.’

Deputy Mayor of the North of Tyne and Mayor of North Tyneside, Council Norma Redfearn said: ‘I welcome the invitation to discuss further devolution in the North East and will support any deal that is good for our residents…The government must now match the scale of ambition with the financial settlement and resources to deliver’.

Councillor Glen Sanderson, leader of Northumberland County Council, said: ‘I very much welcome levelling up and all that this will do to help not only the areas which most need support, but also for our residents who stand to gain through better skills training and greater job opportunities.’

Councillor Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, said: “I’m pleased that government have decided to prioritise negotiations about our ambitious plans to transform the North East. We urgently need resources to support the recovery of our public transport network following the pandemic, as well as more powers and responsibilities to help us ensure our city and our region have a great future. I look forward to cracking on with ministerial discussions to get the best devolution deal possible for our businesses and communities.’

Councillor Martin Gannon, leader of Gateshead Council – who led the battle against the government’s previous devolution offer to the North East in 2016, causing the subsequent rift between the councils north and south of the Tyne – called for a ‘fair, reasonable, equitable settlement from government’ that would ‘deal with the generations of unfairness and inequality that we have experienced in the North East’, the LDRS reported.

The reactions of the six councils to the Levelling Up White Paper and prospect of new devolution deals for the region follow those of business leaders in the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and North East England Chamber of Commerce, as well as the leader of Durham County Council, also welcoming the government announcement, as reported here yesterday.