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Business leaders urge May to offer new north east devolution deal

A new north east devolution deal, centred on Newcastle, should be introduced now that the previous devolution deal has fallen through, the city’s business leaders have told Theresa May.

Key figures in Newcastle, including local business chiefs and university chancellors, have written to the prime minister calling on her to reinstate a “North of Tyne devolution deal”.

Sajid Javid, the communities and local government secretary, withdrew the devolution deal in September after it was rejected by four of the seven member councils.

However, the three councils that did support it – Newcastle City Council, North Tyneside Council and Northumberland County Council – are now understood to be seeking a separate devolution deal on their own.

“We believe that a strong North of Tyne devolution deal overseen by a new combined authority with an elected mayor, working collaboratively with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and business, provides an excellent and exciting opportunity to accelerate economic growth,” the letter to May said.

“A successful North of Tyne will also have major economic benefits for the rest of the North East area and the Northern Powerhouse.”

The letter argued that the North of Tyne is “significant geographically” and is “a highly functional and successful economic area”, but needs devolution to help it address increasing economic challenges.

It was signed by:

  • Jonathan Prew, head of Local Government Capita
  • Adam Serfontein, chair, Developing Consensus
  • Alex Lamb, chair, British Engines
  • Ammar Mirza CBE, chair and founder, Asian Business Connexions
  • Bill MacLeod, senior partner, PwC
  • Brian Palmer, managing director, Tharsus Group
  • Grant Harris, managing director, Hardy & Grays
  • Jamie Martin, chair, Newcastle College Group
  • Jeff Hope, head of manufacturing, AkzoNobel
  • Jim Mawdsley, chief executive, Generator
  • Joe Docherty, chief executive, NCG
  • John Hamilton, managing director, Renown Group
  • Mark Thompson, managing partner, Ryder Architecture
  • Martin Lawlor, chief executive, Port of Blyth
  • Mike Hedges, regional director, Engie
  • Phil Kite, chief executive, Reece Group
  • Professor Andrew Wathey, vice-chancellor, Northumbria University
  • Professor Chris Brink, vice-chancellor, Newcastle University
  • Sean Bullick, chief executive, NE1
  • Jim Yates, senior vice president, Aavid Thermacore Europe

The row over north east devolution comes as increasing doubts have been cast on the government’s devolution agenda since May became prime minister.

An IPPR North report published last week, for example, called for greater devolution to address the growing threat to the north of England from Brexit.

(Image c. Glenn Bowman)

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