Council leader welcomes devolution agreement

Brought to you by the News Post Leader.
Brought to you by the News Post Leader.

Council chiefs say a devolution agreement could bring real benefits to Northumberland.

Members of the North East Combined Authority and Government signed the agreement, which aims to transform the north east economy and bring new opportunities for businesses and residents by devolving powers, funding and responsibilities.

The move will also result in a new elected mayor, to be elected in 2017.

Northumberland County Council leader Coun Grant Davey has welcomed the move, and says it could help the rural needs of the county.

He said: “As a predominately rural county it is important that any move to devolution in the north east takes into account the very rural nature of most of our county.

“I am particularly delighted that the proposed re-opening of the Ashington Blyth Tyne passenger train line is mentioned in the agreement.

“Should the detailed work to establish a business case for the passenger train line be successful then this agreement will mean the scheme will be brought forward.

“We will also have additional enterprise zones which are more attractive to investors. Traditionally limited to more urban areas in the past, the latest bidding round for enterprise zones was extended to include more rural areas.

“The creation of an Employment and Skills Board to manage an overhaul of post-16 skills training and employment support is unique to the north east devolution agreement.

“This will enable us to get more people into work, increase productivity, improve the life chances of young people and address the skill shortages.”

“Ensuring access to superfast broadband which is fundamental to maintaining the vitality and viability of rural areas.

“Northumberland, with its NHS Vanguard project and close working relationship with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust and the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group is already seen as a leading light in developing integration of health and social care.

“It involves setting up a North East Land Board to increase the number of new homes in the region and to aid economic development.

“This will strengthen the gains to be made from our accommodation review which involves a major review of 89 buildings and assets in nine main towns and aims to generate over £27m in capital income, contribute significantly to economic growth and regeneration, and make annual savings in council running costs of £3.4m

“Over time, we’ll also have more responsibility for rural growth stewardship which will simplify the funding process we receive from Europe assisting our farming and tourism industries.

“More devolution of regulatory powers which can enable economic growth will really help our market towns, even more important in rural areas.

“Northumberland is already known for its beauty and has shown how it is a great venue for high profile events such as the Tour of Britain with the Tall Ships Race in Blyth next year and all the economic benefits they bring.

“As a result of devolution the county and the region will become even more attractive in hosting key events.”