Devolution discussions in the North East have ground to a halt after leaders failed to agree the terms of a deal.
The region has faced a rocky few months in the wake of the EU referendum as the seven authorities that make up the North East Combined Authority (NECA) attempted to iron out proposals under mounting pressure from Whitehall.
Newcastle City Council backed the deal
Communities secretary Sajid Javid wrote to leaders last month insisting they come to a consensus or lose out on the terms that had already been signed off by the previous Government.
NECA chair Cllr Paul Watson told Transport Network’s sister publication The MJ that this was just ‘one of several ultimatums’ the combined authority had received.
He said: ‘It felt to me [the Government] just wanted this done and boxed off. I don’t believe this new Government is as ideologically wedded to the idea of devolution as the previous chancellor and DCLG ministers were. They were the architects.’
The authorities voted four to three against taking the deal to public consultation. Newcastle, Northumberland and North Tyneside backed the deal but Sunderland, Durham, South Tyneside and Gateshead voted against.
Cllr Watson said the biggest hurdle was assurances of EU funding that had been promised prior to the referendum, which fell ‘woefully short’ of what leaders were expecting.
He continued: ‘Each authority is very different. Some are rural, some are urban and we all have different types of industry.
‘There were concerns, understandably, over an elected mayor – which Mr Javid insisted was a prerequisite for NECA – and there was concern about regulatory powers moving to the centre. A lot of people felt like we were creating a super council rather than reinvigorating manufacturing and economy in the region.’
However, Cllr Watson maintained the region was still planning to negotiate with the DCLG.
A DCLG spokesman said it was ‘disappointing’ that some authorities had been ‘unwilling’ to support a deal that ‘certainly would have benefited local people’ and said the door remained open for further discussions.
This article first appeared in The MJ.