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07.09.16

Four out of seven councils vote against north east devolution plans

Devolution plans for the north east have been put on hold after four out of the seven local authorities that make up the North East Combined Authority (NECA) voted not to press ahead with the plans.

At a meeting of the NECA leadership yesterday, the councils voted against the proposals which include the contentious issue of electing a mayor for the region.

Sunderland, Durham, South Tyneside and Gateshead voted against the £900m devolution plans, saying they were not satisfied with reassurances over funding post-Brexit. Newcastle, Northumberland and North Tyneside had voted to move forward with the plans.

There had been concerns that the devolution plans may not move forward, as Gateshead was due to make a decision on re-joining the process to bring an elected mayor to the north east before the NECA meeting. However, the council decided to delay the decision until after the leadership vote.

Paul Watson, Sunderland City Council leader and NECA chair, said: “Following the outcome of the EU referendum and the subsequent changes within government, council leaders have been equally clear that to move forward, the new government must provide assurances regarding the terms of the region's devolution deal.

“Extensive discussions and negotiations have taken place with government over recent months, but despite our best efforts, it has not been possible to reach an agreement which all of the seven local authorities feel able to support.”

The region had been promised £30m in government funding for the next 30 years, but this included the mayor taking control of the devolved powers including decisions about transport, investment, funding, skills training, business support, housing and strategic planning.

Alexandra Jones, chief executive of think tank Centre for Cities, said it was deeply regrettable that local leaders in the north east have been unable to agree upon taking forward the proposed devolution deal for the area, which could have boosted the region’s long-term economic prospects.

“But this should not signal the end of devolution in the north-east,” she added.

A DCLG spokesman said: “It is disappointing that some north-east councils have been unwilling to support this deal, which would certainly have benefited local people. If councils in the region wish to discuss devolution proposals further, our door remains open.”

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