The Greens will not be putting up a candidate, criticising the cost and its democratic merit, as the line-up for the North of Tyne mayoral election becomes clearer.
People in the combined authority area, made up of Northumberland County Council, North Tyneside Council and Newcastle City Council, will go to the polls in May to elect a mayor for the first time.
Left-winger Jamie Driscoll defeated Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes for the right to stand as Labour’s candidate last week, while the Lib Dems announced their candidate – John Appleby – before Christmas.
The Conservatives have been fairly quite although an announcement is expected tonight, while John McCabe, who runs Fusion PR in Blyth, formerly worked at Alcan/Rio Tinto before its closure and is the current president of the North East England Chamber of Commerce, is considering running as an independent.
Now, the Green Party has confirmed that it will not be putting forward a candidate, questioning the process but vowing to be involved in the build-up to the election ‘to voice our case for truly democratic devolution’.
Its statement claims that ‘the Government is strong-arming the people in Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland into having an elected metro mayor, with the lure of £600million investment over the next 30 years’.
It continues: “It may seem like a lot, but boils down to 40p per person per week – a derisory amount.
“That figure of £600million is only a tiny percentage of the amount of money that the Tories have taken away from local council budgets in the North of Tyne area over the last eight years, forcing cuts to essential services.
“This is a case of the Government stealing all our clothes and thinking we should cheer when they give us buttons.
“The Green Party is absolutely committed to the devolution of democratic power to the most appropriate local level. However, in relation to this metro mayor, a question must be asked regarding what strange form of real democracy it represents?”
The party points to the £5,000 deposit as well as the fact that the small cabinet supporting the mayor is appointed not elected, saying this ‘is not democratic representation; it’s a cabal’.
Its statement adds: “True local democracy demands more and diverse voices, not the same old carve-up by two parties who constantly blame each other for the woes of the region. The people of the North East desperately need a rebooting of democracy, and this is not it.”
In response, a spokesman for the North of Tyne Combined Authority said: “The £600million deal is substantial extra funding we would not have without this devolution deal.
“The deposit is not set by the North of Tyne Combined Authority. This is an amount that is set out in law by central government and relates to all combined authority mayoral elections in England.
“The North of Tyne elected mayor, working alongside six cabinet members from the three local authorities, will be truly democratic and work in the interests of everyone in Newcastle, Northumberland and North Tyneside.”
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service