NE devolution deal 'mustn't be done behind closed doors'

Katie Ghose, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society.
Katie Ghose, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society.

The Electoral Reform Society has said that devolution plans for the North East could ‘flounder’ without real public involvement.

Responding to the announcement that the Government’s devolution plans for the region have reached a new and final stage of negotiations, Katie Ghose, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society (ERS), said: “While more powers for the North East are to be welcomed, citizens in the region shouldn’t be left out in the cold while these crucial debates take place.

"It would be a huge mistake for these important decisions about local democracy to be made behind closed doors. It’s vital the public in the North East get a say – otherwise these devolution plans risk floundering and becoming an unpopular mess.

“The Combined Authority says that the public will be consulted – what form this will take must now be spelled out. But mere consultation alone is not enough – there must be public involvement with a real chance of influencing the outcome. This has to be done now - and started quickly - otherwise the risk is that citizens in the region will feel it’s a done deal.

“Let’s have a real debate about devolution and decentralisation. The ERS, with leading academics, is currently running local Citizens Assemblies in Sheffield and Southampton that offer a promising model to follow in terms of engaging local people in the devolution agenda. Politicians in the region and the UK government would do well to watch them and build on them as a way to open up these discussions about where power should lie in our regions.”

For more information about the Citizens’ Assemblies project, visit www.citizensassembly.co.uk
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