Authorities to work together

Plans are in the offing to form a combined authority, made up of all the councils in the North East, to work on issues such as jobs, economic growth and transport.

An extensive area-wide review of governance arrangements has taken place across the seven North-East local authority areas of Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland.

Now it is proposed that a submission is made to the Government to establish a combined authority covering the area of the seven local authorities.

The review, carried out by the LA7 (the seven local authorities) leadership board states that the seven authorities in the North East form a functional economic market area with evidence showing high levels of economic integration, in terms of the labour market (and travel-to-work areas), housing markets and a number of the area’s key sectors.

The review concludes: “A new combined authority is likely: To facilitate closer partnership working and is consistent with the recommendations of the recent North East Independent Economic Review; through a co-ordinated approach to tackling the area’s priorities, to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the relevant functions; through improved strategic planning and decision-making based on stronger centralised evidence collection and analysis functions, to improve the delivery of the relevant statutory functions; to lead to an improvement in the economic conditions of the area.”

It adds: “Put most simply, everything we do together will be co-ordinated to aid economic growth and prosperity.

“The new body would allow a co-ordinated, sustained, long-term attack on economic challenges in the determined pursuit of growth.”

A combined authority is a legal structure to lead collaboration between local authorities and enable strategic decision-making.

They were introduced in the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 and are designed to enable groups of authorities to work closely together to deliver improvements across boundaries.

One already exists in Greater Manchester and two more, West Yorkshire and Sheffield City, are in the pipeline.