Northumberland councillors approve 'final chapter' of North East devolution deal
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Northumberland County Council became the latest in the region to back the huge deal on Tuesday, which will create a new North East elected mayor who will represent roughly two million people across the region.
Both the North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA) and non-mayoral North East Combined Authority have also now agreed to their own abolition, and the creation of a new North East Mayoral Combined Authority covering seven council areas across Tyne and Wear, County Durham, and Northumberland.
Leaders in different parts of the region have been meeting over the past week to give their final approval for the devolution deal, with only Sunderland City Council’s cabinet now left to do so.
At County Hall in Morpeth on Tuesday morning, the move was described as the “final chapter” of the long saga of North East devolution – a debate that has been the subject of much political wrangling for many years.
Council leader Glen Sanderson said: “This is really the final chapter in moving forward to the new North East Mayoral Combined Authority, which will be up and running in May. It will open the door to significant new funding and there will be billions of pounds for a whole range of exciting new projects.
“At the end of the day, we will be very much Northumberland County Council – but by joining with others, it will open up the door to new funding and cross-border working. I think it is a great day.”
Deputy leader Richard Wearmouth added: “It’s a fantastic achievement for the councils in the North East to come together in such a constructive and positive way in order to strike this deal with Government.
“It brings significant powers from Westminster into the new combined authority and the new mayor, and gives us more control over our destiny as a region. It will allow us to make better, more local decisions with proper partnership working.
“It is without doubt the best deal that has been secured by any region. It’s a fantastic day and there is a brighter future for our region.”
Cllr Sanderson, addressing the issue of cross-party working, added: “We may need to be assertive at times, but I know that we will work together because there is that level of mutual respect that cuts across party politics, and gives me a very strong feeling that this will work very well for all of our citizens.”
As the NTCA met later in the day, independent North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll hailed the deal as the best-funded in the country.
A £4.2bn package of Government money was announced last December, but recent transport funding commitments now mean that at least £6bn will be delivered through the deal.
It is hoped that the deal will create 24,000 new jobs and unlock an additional £5bn in private sector investment.
Should it progress as expected through Westminster early next year, an election will be held in May to choose who the new mayor of the North East will be.