Northumberland leaders lukewarm on expanded mayoral authority

Leaders in Northumberland have refused to commit themselves to revived talk of a new and enlarged mayoral authority for the North East.

By James Harrison
Thursday, 8th July 2021, 2:29 pm
Coun Glen Sanderson, leader of Northumberland County Council.
Coun Glen Sanderson, leader of Northumberland County Council.

The Government restarted efforts to bring the region’s seven councils together under a single elected mayor earlier this year.

But despite the prospect of extra cash and a greater say over issues such as public transport, many decision makers remain lukewarm on the idea.

“Conversations are going on around a larger mayoral area called the Local Authority 7 (LA7),” said Glen Sanderson, Conservative leader of Northumberland County Council.

“We deal with the LA7, we have done over Covid, the relationships are good and we’ve worked well together across parties.

“The Government seems very keen on enlarging the area that we are currently in – the [North of Tyne] Combined Authority, including North Tyneside, Newcastle and ourselves, which I personally think works really well – to a new, larger mayoral authority.

“We had a discussion about this last week and I made it clear that I felt we should continue those discussions, but I will not commit Northumberland County Council to join a larger area until we have had a full discussion in council.

“I think it involves all councillors, so I want to have that discussion, hopefully in September, if we’re at that stage, or, if necessary, at a specially called council.”

Coun Sanderson was speaking at Wednesday’s meeting of the full county council, which was held in person at County Hall, in Morpeth, but also streamed online.

The North of Tyne mayoral authority was created in 2018, when it’s three councils split away from the North East Combined Authority (NECA).

NECA’s four remaining local authorities – Gateshead, County Durham, South Tyneside and Sunderland – rejected the deal in favour of retaining the status quo.

But the current North of Tyne elected mayor, Jamie Driscoll, has insisted previous barriers are now ‘water under the Tyne Bridge’ and urged the outside authorities to reconsider the offer – which would include the added sweetener of up to £500m for transport schemes in the region.

Speaking this week to the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, he said: “There’s a half a billion quid on the table and that’s a pretty big reason for people to come together and change the governance.”