Call for referendum over devolution deal

County Hall in Morpeth.
County Hall in Morpeth.

Councillors in Northumberland have voted to move onto the next stage of the North of Tyne devolution deal.

At a full meeting of the council on Monday, approval was given for the chief executive and leader of the council to issue the formal consent to the Secretary of State to withdraw from the existing North East Combined Authority and establish a new North of Tyne mayoral combined authority.

Members voted 52 to two in favour of the plans with Coun Georgina Hill, the Independent ward member for Berwick East, and Jeff Reid, the leader of the Liberal Democrat group, being the only ones who voted against.

Coun Robbie Moore, one of the Conservative ward members for Alnwick, said: “Not only will the devolution deal bring benefits to our urban areas across the region, but rural areas like North Northumberland will not miss out.

“The North of Tyne deal will include projects to develop the growth and productivity of our rural communities, which will be an invaluable boost to people living in those parts of Northumberland.”

But Coun Hill said: “It was disappointing to see both the main parties whipping this vote so heavily when it is the type of issue where parties should grant their members a free vote.

“For me, as a democrat, I can not support the route we are going down without a clear mandate from residents through a referendum.”

She also questioned what justification there was for not putting this directly to residents, through a referendum, when the Mayor will have significant powers, including the ability to raise taxes and over compulsory purchase orders.

The council leader, Peter Jackson, has previously emphasised that the county council was not losing any powers, but the new authority would be gaining powers from central government.

Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry MP said he was pleased councillors on Northumberland County Council and North Tyneside Council have given their support to the plan, which will see a Mayor elected in 2019. The deal includes a funding package of £600million – £20million per year over 30 years.