National and Devolved Politics


New £600m North of Tyne devo deal could see underpowered mayor

The mayor of the new North of Tyne devolution deal will have reduced powers compared to equivalent metro mayors in other parts of the country.

Following the initial Budget announcement last week, it has been revealed that the new mayor will not have a veto on combined authority decisions and there is no mention of the combined authority being given devolution control over transport powers or funding.

Visiting the area this weekend, Treasury minister Andrew Jones and Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry set out the details of the new deal, which will involve full control over the adult education budget as well as an inclusive Growth Board to coordinate skills and employment.

The new plans will replace the original north east devolution deal, which was called off by communities secretary Sajid Javid after four of the North East Combined Authority member councils – Sunderland, Durham, South Tyneside and Gateshead – voted against it.

The initial £900m scheme was rejected because the councils concerned voiced worries about post-Brexit reassurances from the government.

Projections for the North of Tyne proposals look positive at the moment, with the DCLG expecting a £1.1bn boost to the economy, along with 10,000 new jobs and £2.1bn in private investment.

Jones said the deal was part of the government’s efforts to give back to northern cities.

“This government is delivering for the north east,” he commented. “We have been clear in our commitment to ensure that opportunity is shared across the country as we create an economy fit for the future.

“Today represents a big step in achieving this – giving the people of the North of the Tyne a bigger voice and greater power over their future.

“This historic deal, including £600m of government investment is yet another example of how we are backing the north. It will bolster the local economy in the North of Tyne and generate thousands of new jobs.”

Cllr Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, welcomed the new plans, saying the deal would help to put the city “at the heart of Britain.”

He explained: “The devolution deal we have negotiated is our region’s next step towards creating a north east economy with above-average wages and below-average unemployment.

“We now have a real opportunity for our region to come together and turn our ambition for more and better jobs into reality.”

Developing jobs, technology and industry

Plans for the deal also include commitments to review investment cases in science and industry for the area, with offshore industry, energy, and 5G digital connectivity on the list of likely candidates.

Berry, who is responsible for the Northern Powerhouse plans, argued the reportedly groundbreaking deal “truly passes power to the people,” adding: “With a strong voice in a new mayor, a new Wear crossing and the globally-significant Great Exhibition of the North, this is a new golden era creating jobs, growth and prosperity for the resurgent north east.”

The elected mayor of North Tyneside Council, Norma Redfearn, added her voice to the positive responses.

“This is a very exciting deal that will help us to develop our economy and give us access to a wide range of new opportunities,” she said. “I am extremely proud of North Tyneside and am confident this deal will allow us to build on the strengths of our people and businesses.”

The mayor also pointed to the skills benefits the deal would bring, explaining that people would be given the opportunity to retrain, gain new skills and fill local jobs.

In addition, Cllr Peter Jackson, leader of Northumberland CC, said: “There are some significant issues for us to tackle over the next few years and this deal will give us the tools with which to make a real positive difference to the whole of Northumberland.

“In particular, we have been asking government to help us significantly improve the educational attainment in our schools and I am delighted that we have been given the opportunity to introduce an Education Improvement Challenge for the area.

“This will be the first outside London. We’ve also been asking central government to devolve powers to our region so we will become a rural growth pilot for England to develop ways in which we can improve prosperity, job opportunities and housing delivery in all of our communities.”

Top image: Glenn Bowman

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