Devolution deal held up after Brexit vote

Tthe North East Combined Authoity Leadership Board.

Tthe North East Combined Authoity Leadership Board.

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Regional council leaders are seeking assurances from the Government that the terms of the North East devolution deal will be honoured following the result of the EU referendum.

At a meeting on Monday, members of the North East Combined Authority (NECA) Leadership Board agreed to write to request confirmation that the terms of the deal, signed in October 2015, would remain unchanged.

In particular, the leaders of the region’s seven councils, including Northumberland, are seeking assurances that levels of investment and funding will be protected.

Coun Paul Watson, chairman of NECA, said: “The North East has seen significant benefits of membership of the EU in the form of access to European trade and investment and through European funding, which has helped to regenerate our towns and cities, support business, invest in science and support our rural economy.

“We remain committed to the devolution agreement, but we cannot ignore the impact that the loss of significant funding will have on our region.

“A key principle which underpins the agreement is fair funding and it is right that we request assurances from the Government that the content of our agreement will be protected.”

However, North East mayoral candidate Jeremy Middleton, who is running an independent and is the only person to announce his candidacy so far, has criticised the decision, saying the North East ‘will be left without a voice’.

“What our leaders don’t realise is that following the Brexit vote, the Northern Powerhouse and devolution agenda is more important than ever,” he added. “The devo-deal would mean real power to change our region for the better, with new budgets to create more jobs and get better skills for our kids, and to improve our transport and NHS.”