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North East devolution deal flounders

Published: Thursday, 15th September 2016

Javid confirms that the £30m-a-year devolution deal and regional mayor for the North East are “off the table” after the region’s local authorities fail to agree terms…

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed that the proposed £30m-a-year devolution deal for the North East is dead in the water after the region's local authorities failed to agree the terms.

Last week, four of the seven members of the North East Combined Authority (NECA), Durham, Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland, rejected the deal, which would have granted powers over areas including skills and housing, transport, and would have created an investment fund worth £30m-a-year over the next 30 years.

In return, the region would have elected a metro mayor in 2017. Newcastle, Northumberland and North Tyneside voted to proceed with devolution.

Javid said: “Local leaders in the North East Combined Authority have made a clear decision not to proceed with this ambitious and far-reaching devolution deal for their region, while I am disappointed, it is a decision I respect and so that deal is now off the table.

“It is with regret that we have therefore withdrawn the legislation that would have brought this deal to life, which means local people will miss out on over £1bn of investment, and new powers on transport, planning and skills.

“Handing power back to Northerners is a key part of our plans to build a Northern Powerhouse and our focus now will be on working to secure a new agreement for residents in those areas committed to progressing with devolution.”

The legislation for a mayoral deal has now been withdrawn and the House of Commons debate scheduled this week was cancelled.

Responding to the announcement, Councillor Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council and NECA chair, said: “It is very disappointing that the government has chosen to end current discussions over North East devolution in this way.

“Throughout this process, all of the seven council leaders in the North East have repeatedly and clearly stated their commitment to devolution and to creating a stronger regional economy.

“And, although we were not able to reach a majority agreement to proceed to public consultation at this present time, we have reaffirmed our commitment to working together with the government to achieve the right devolution deal for our region.”

Read the news story on the BBC

Roger Milne