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Devolution deal rolls on after public have say

Coun Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, Norma Redfearn, Elected Mayor for North Tyneside,  and Coun Peter Jackson, leader of Northumberland County Council.
Coun Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, Norma Redfearn, Elected Mayor for North Tyneside, and Coun Peter Jackson, leader of Northumberland County Council.

The next step has been taken in the process to implement the North of Tyne devolution deal on the back of a public consultation.

Receiving a summary of the feedback – from a survey and events across the region – at its meeting on Tuesday, Northumberland County Council’s decision-making cabinet agreed to submit a detailed report to the Secretary of State.

The county’s partner authorities, North Tyneside and Newcastle, took similar decisions this week too.

Council leader, Coun Peter Jackson, said: “It’s no secret I think it gives exciting possibilities to Northumberland in particular.

“There are set stages to go through before it becomes a reality and this is reporting back on one of those stages – the public consultation.

“I attended the meeting in the Northumberland Hall in Alnwick which was very well-attended by representative bodies as well as individuals. I’m happy to report back from that event that the vast majority of comments were positive.

“It does need underlining that the new powers come from central government; the three councils will continue to do what they do with very little, if any, change at all.”

Having mentioned the injection of £20million per year over 30 years, he added: “It’s not just about the investment fund, it’s about education and skills as much as anything.”

A majority of the other cabinet members were also pleased with the feedback as well as being right behind the devolution deal itself.

But there was one naysayer following all the positivity from the Conservative members of the council’s leadership – Lib Dem group leader Jeff Reid.

He said: “If you add up the people who agree against the people who disagree and don’t have an opinion, it’s 50-50, it’s not a unanimous thing.”

He also raised concerns about the county losing its say on regional transport arrangement compared to the current set-up.

But Coun Jackson pointed out that Northumberland’s fully-devolved transport arrangements will continue and the deal will give it more sway in Transport for the North – which is going to be making the major decisions going forward.

Referring to the directly-elected mayor – a requirement of any deal – Coun Reid pointed out that the elections would never fall on the same day as Northumberland council elections, but would coincide with those in North Tyneside and Newcastle. “You are going to get out-voted every time,” he added.

But Coun Jackson said that the mayoral elections all around the country will be on the same day – which will be a far bigger news event than any council elections.

Earlier in the meeting, the council’s chief executive, Daljit Lally, said: “I see this very much as a catalyst for change in some of the areas where we need to see significant improvements.”

Comments from other cabinet members

Coun Glen Sanderson: “It’s very heartening that so many stakeholders have welcomed the initiative.”

Coun Nick Oliver: “Its gives us a seat at the table with central government to draw down extra funding into the area.”

Coun Richard Wearmouth: “This democratises the combined authority by putting someone at the top who is elected by voters.”

Coun John Riddle: “It’s great to see politics being put to one side and everyone working for the greater good.”