Northumberland taxpayers won't face 'hefty weight' of new charge, vows North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll

The new North of Tyne Mayor says he doesn’t want to place a “hefty weight” on taxpayers by hitting them with a new charge.

Tuesday, 2nd July 2019, 3:12 pm
Updated Thursday, 4th July 2019, 1:25 pm
Mayor Jamie Driscoll

Jamie Driscoll has the power to put an additional precept on the council tax bills of residents in Northumberland, Newcastle and North Tyneside.

But, on the day that new calls were made to give regional mayors extra powers and funding, the Labour figurehead revealed that he is leaning against raising extra cash for the North of Tyne Combined Authority from local taxpayers.

The ‘metro mayor tax’ has proved controversial when introduced by other elected mayors in Greater Manchester and Liverpool.

But, appearing before a combined authority scrutiny panel for the first time, Mr Driscoll revealed that adding a precept equivalent to a £10 increase in the council tax bill of a Band D property would generate less than £2million in revenue and said that there are “more practical ways” of securing more substantial funding.

He told councillors that any precept proposal would need “a lot of work”, though he has a “very open mind”.

In response to a question on the issue from Newcastle Lib Dem councillor Greg Stone, Mr Driscoll added: “It would involve putting a fairly hefty weight on people’s council tax bills to get a significant amount.

“I don’t think, given how hard pressed people in the North of Tyne region are, that is something I would be particularly interested in doing.”

Lord Heseltine, the former Conservative Deputy Prime Minister who drew up the proposals to create combined authorities and metro mayors, called on Tuesday for devolved authorities to be given a raft of new powers – including the ability to raise local taxes and charges such as vehicle excise duty, airport passenger duty, and tourist tax.

Mr Driscoll said Lord Heseltine’s comments showed “significant cross-party support” for devolution and also called for elected mayors to be given control over a new UK Shared Prosperity Fund, proposed by the Government to replace a number of European funding sources post-Brexit.