North of Tyne devolution deal suffers another setback

The planned vote on 17 April on the North of Tyne devolution deal was suspended for a second time, giving the current combined authority’s plans for devolution yet another delay.

The deal first fell apart back in September 2016 when four councils south of the River Tyne –  Sunderland, County Durham, South Tyneside and Gateshead – voted against putting the devolution plans out to consultation, pushing communities secretary Sajid Javid to withdraw the legislation designed to facilitate the decision.

Then, Newcastle City, North Tyneside and Northumberland councils proposed to chase their own devolution deal.

The proposed North of Tyne devolution plans was set to comprise £600m of central government investment and a metro mayor, similar to the Manchester and Liverpool frameworks.

For the proposed deal to go ahead, councils must vote in favour of dissolving the current combined authority in the north east, something that Gateshead Council, South Tyneside Council, Sunderland City Council and Durham County Council have voted against – expressing concerns over creating a split in the region.

The councils agreed to delay a final decision and are set to meet again next week. A spokesperson for the current combined authority told press that the deferment would allow “additional time for the seven local authorities to finalised detailed proposals for joint working in the future.”

Paul Swinney, head of policy and research at Centre for Cities, said: “This shows that trying to break up a combined authority is very difficult, particularly one where transport has for a long time operated across a number of local authorities in the way that Nexus – which runs the Metro light rail system – does. It’s right that due time is given to work out the details, but this will need to be resolved sooner rather than later if there is to be a mayoral election in just over a year from now.”

(Top image c. Glenn Bowman)

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