North East to enter into elected mayor talks

 

The North East Combined Authority (Neca) is set to enter into talks with government over a directly elected mayor for the region, as part of a devolution deal likely to include extra transport powers.

Leaders of Neca’s seven Labour-controlled councils have already written to ministers confirming that they ‘wish to begin detailed devolution negotiations and are willing to consider an elected mayor’.

Under the Government’s proposals city regions are in line for extra powers in areas such as transport, health and planning if they accept a directly elected mayor.

In the case of Greater Manchester a deal has already been struck and subject to legislation being passed a city-region mayor will be voted in by the public in 2017, with interim mayor Tony Lloyd chairing until then.

The councils of Durham CC, Gateshead Council, Newcastle City Council, North Tyneside Council, Northumberland CC, South Tyneside Council and Sunderland City Council, are now seeking a similar deal.

Cllr Simon Henig, chair of Neca, said: ‘We want to explore with Government the scope for a radical devolution deal for the North East, with substantial devolution of powers and responsibilities.

‘In parallel to this, we will consider with Government the most appropriate governance structures, including an elected mayor, to oversee those new powers.

‘We will approach this process of negotiation with an open mind about where this takes us and are all firmly committed to seizing the opportunity that real devolution presents for our region.’

Chancellor George Osborne celebrated the announcement and placed it firmly within one of the Government's other agendas, the Northern Powerhouse, designed to boost productivity across the region through a focus on better transport connections.

Mr Osborne said: 'Now we have another major northern area actively interested in our proposed radical devolution of power and an elected mayor.

'We will now work constructively across parties to land a deal. The way our country is governed is changing before our eyes, and much for the better.'

Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson told the BBC: 'Nothing is off the table. We have got to see what possibilities there are.

‘There is entrenched unemployment here, even though it has gone down. Can we get the powers on skills, jobs and transport to enable us to create a more vibrant economy?’

In 2012 the people of Newcastle voted against having a directly mayor, as did the people of Manchester.

 
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