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North East and Tees Valley authorities to sign devolution deals

Chancellor George Osborne is heading to the north east to sign off two of the region’s confirmed devolution deals with members of the North East and Tees Valley Combined Authorities today (23 October).

It surfaced that a government deal with the North East Combined Authority was set to be signed earlier this week after they had fruitful talks, including agreeing on the election of a metro-mayor in 2017.

The mayor will take control of the devolved powers from then, which will include decisions about transport, investment, funding, skills training, business support, housing and strategic planning.

And under a separate deal also set to be signed today, the Tees Valley will see its own directly-elected mayor who will work alongside the five local authorities.

Osborne noted that the announcement proves the “unstoppable momentum” that “revolutionary plans” for devolution are now gathering – particularly after this month’s Sheffield deal.

“The civic leaders of the north east have worked incredibly hard to reach this point and, as a result, today we are signing this historic agreement which will give the area significant new powers and investment.

“Once again, the Northern Powerhouse is leading the way in our ambition to take power out of London and give it to the people who know their areas best,” he added.

And the Northern Powerhouse minister, James Wharton MP, highlighted that the deal helps put an end to the ‘one size fits all’ approach of the past by giving local people the powers they need.

Cllr Simon Henig, chair of the North East Combined Authority, said: “This is an important day for the north east. The agreement being signed today will bring significant economic benefits and opportunities for businesses and residents.

“Those living, working and doing business here in our region represent our greatest asset – and through this agreement, we will invest in the people of the north east and support business to grow and thrive.

“We want to enable people to get the skills and training to get jobs, we want to create reliable and efficient transport networks to provide access to those jobs, and we want to ensure people have good quality homes in areas they want to live in.”

And Sue Jeffrey, chair of the Tees Valley Combined Authority, said that if the Tees Valley deal is agreed by all local councils, there is “no doubt it will enable us to do more locally to strengthen our economy and secure a more sustainable future” for the region.

North east devolution package

Henig said that the authority will now further invest in and work with the local business sector to ensure they understand meet business needs.

This will be matched with up to £900m to support competition on an international stage, as well as attract new firms and investment into the region to boost its economy.  The deal will include an initial funding allocation of £30m per year over 30 years.

And from 2017, the region will see a devolved approach to business support set to simplify and strengthen the support already available for business growth, innovation and global trade in the north east – all in order to deliver ambitions set out in the region’s strategic economic plan to create 100,000 jobs.

The rest of the devolution package will include a new Employment and Skills Board to manage an overhaul of post-16 skills training and employment support in an effort to get more people into work and boost productivity, as well as address regional skills shortages.

It will see the establishment of a Commission for Health and Social Care Integration. In partnership with the NHS, the commission will analyse the potential for further integration of services, including acute and primary care, community and mental health services, social care and public health.

On behalf of all regions NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), the North East and Cumbria CCG Forum welcomed the opportunity to explore improvements for the regional health outcomes and inequalities through tighter integration and collaboration across the area.

Housing will also see an overhaul with an ambitious target to increase the number of new homes in the region, supported by the creation of a North East Land Board to identify suitable locations for housing and the devolution of some statutory powers.

Furthermore, Osborne has agreed to devolve responsibility of the region’s transport budget and delivery, including infrastructure improvements and the roll-out of smart ticketing across public transport networks.

Final agreements remain subject to the government’s Spending Review and the legislative process, as well as decisions from further public consultation and an agreement with the seven local councils that make up the combined authority.

Tees Valley devolution package

The deal itself is worth £450m over 30 years, meaning the region will receive £15m per year.

It will transfer significant powers over employment and skills, transport, planning and investment from Whitehall, with a new fund created to deliver a programme of investment in the region over the 30-year period.

This will include a devolved and consolidated transport budget.

The deal also includes a comprehensive review and redesign of the education, skills and employment support system.

The government will also develop a devolved approach to business support from 2017 in partnership wiith the region, and the deal also leaves breathing space for additional powers to be agreed over time and included in future legislation.

The Tees Valley leaders and mayor have committed to the deal “in principle”, but it still subject to formal consent by each council. Meeting will take place shortly to address this.

(Top image c. North News)


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