Second Labour MP calls for regional devolution deal

A second North East Labour MP has called on the region’s seven council leaders to ‘pull together’ and agree a devolution deal with the government.

Bridget Phillipson, MP for Houghon and Sunderland South, told ChronicleLive’s Dan O’Donoghue: ‘I think it would be better for the region if we could pull together and work together on a region-wide basis because when you look at how people travel to work and where they spend their leisure time, it’s often right across the region.

“People in Sunderland will travel to work in North Tyneside and they might go and do their shopping in Durham.’

Ms Phillipson is Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury and thus a senior figure of the Labour Party.

She follows Sunderland Central’s Labour MP Julie Elliott, who called for a regional deal last week, as reported on this website.

Backing for devolution from the two Sunderland MPs will add to pressure on the North East Combined Authority (NECA), and particularly its chair, Councillor Graeme Miller, who also happens to be leader of Sunderland City Council, to agree to a deal.

The North East has consistently missed out on government funding and other benefits as a result of rejecting a deal in 2016, as regularly documented by this website, while Tees Valley, which has a deal, has been favoured.

Yet still the four NECA councils of Gateshead, South Tyneside, Sunderland and County Durham have given no public indication that they are willing to relent, though Durham is understood to be talking to the government about a go-it-alone county deal.

The three North of Tyne councils which split from NECA in 2017 and signed their own deal, are also being held back because they and their mayor, Jamie Driscoll, cover only half the regional economy.

Meanwhile the Conservative leader of Northumberland County Council, Councillor Glen Sanderson, has added a further complication by saying 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’.

NECA and the North of Tyne leaders, including Councillor Sanderson, should heed the call of the two Sunderland MPs, re-unite their two combined authorities and agree a deal as quickly as possible. They have wasted enough time and forfeited enough funding already.