North East devolution consultation slammed over lack of response
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Northumberland councillors Jeff Reid and Georgina Hill have been highly critical of the devolution deal as a whole in the past.
From a population of around two million people across the entire region, there were just 3,235 responses.
Coun Reid, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said he was “not surprised” at the poor turnout.
He continued: “People aren’t interested in it. They don’t want it and they know that the consultation is a sham.
“It’s going to happen either way, it’s not a referendum and people have already decided so it’s a waste of time. Nothing anybody says is going to change the minds of those in charge.
“The only reason the councils are in favour is because they think they’re going to get access to more money. To me, that’s all wrong – we’re owed that money and we shouldn’t have to be jumping through hoops.”
Independent councillor Georgina Hill, who represents the Berwick East ward, has previously described the devolution deal as “undemocratic” due to a lack of consultation.
She said: “The claim, that devolution has public backing, needs to be taken with a very large pinch of salt. It is not difficult to get the results you want from surveys and so called ‘consultations’.
“The sample size was very small too – the vast majority of people in the region did not respond and were understandably apathetic about engaging on something that had already been agreed. The only meaningful way to register an opinion is through a vote – the public were not given a referendum.
“Also, disgracefully, none of the participating authorities even put this to a debate and vote of their full councils. This is a complete and utter failure of democracy.”
The proposed £4 billion deal will bring extra powers and funding to the North East, as well as a new elected mayor.
A spokesman for Northumberland Conservatives said: “This is a major opportunity for our region and it has support from all the major political parties. A well organised information sharing process was undertaken with a number of clearly advertised consultation events taking place.
“The views of the residents and others were taken into account.”