A Historic £1.4bn Devolution Deal is Bringing Hope as well as Concern

Levelling up Secretary Micheal Gove has announced a historic devolution deal for the North East that will see a newly elected Mayor, given fresh money and powers to level up the region. This £1.4bn investment fund allows a new Mayor of the North East to level up Northumberland, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Gateshead, South Tyneside, Sunderland and County Durham. 

Local leaders and Mayors have been in positive discussions with the Government in recent months and following successful talks have now been offered this provisional deal. Negotiations with the Government over the devolution deal have now reached the stage where all councils and combines authorities consider the details before the final decision is made. 

The new deal would see the formation of a new combined authority, headed by an elected “Metro” Mayor and cover the LA7 area of Newcastle, Gateshead, North Tyneside, Sunderland, South Tyneside, County Durham and Northumberland. The deal, which is subject to a governance review and public consultation, offers a potential £4.2bn of investment into the region made up of elements including: 

  • An investment fund of £1.4bn, or £48m a year, to support inclusive economic growth and support our regeneration priorities
  • An indicative budget of around £1.8bn, or £60m a year, for adult education and skills to meet local skills priorities and improve opportunities for residents 
  • A £900m package of investment to transform our transport system, with £563m from the City Regional Sustainable Transport Fund, on top of funding already announced for our buses and metro system
  • A £69m of investment in housing and regeneration, unlocking sites to bring forward new housing and commercial development 

It is expected to create 24,000 new jobs, deliver 70,000 courses per year to give people the skills to get good jobs, and leverage of £5 billion of private sector investment. Once established the new authority, covering an area which is home to around 2 million people, will have the power to make decisions on areas such as transport, skills, housing, finance and economic development. The potential deal does not involve any changes to existing councils. 

A public consultation will take place in early 2023 on the new arrangements which the government have confirmed they are “minded to” approve. It is expected a Mayoral Election would take place in May 2024 and a new authority formed. 

The government will guarantee the new North East Mayoral Combined Authority (MCA) more than £1.4 billion over the next 30 years which will enable the new Mayor and the councils to plan for the long term, with certainty, and unlock the benefits of devolution for 2 million people living in the area.

If agreed, this will ensure the North East has more funding, power and flexibility to make important decisions based on what is best for people across all seven local authority areas.

Levelling up Secretary, Micheal Gove, said: “I’m proud we have agreed to a historic new devolution deal with the North East that gives local leaders more power, more money, and an even greater say on how their areas are run”.

Local Leaders and Mayors across the whole North East welcomed the news in a joint statement: “This is a significant step towards securing important decision-making powers and investment for our region. This would allow us to make decisions that reflect local needs and invest wisely into projects that will make a difference for all our residents, communities and local economy. There remains a process for all councils and combined authorities to consider the details and public consultation before a final decision is made. This is an important milestone in our journey and we will now engage with stakeholders to move the deal to the next stage”. 

However, as much as there has been positivity in the air the public has not warmed up to the deal just yet them having concerns. On Twitter the public has spoken out and has said: 

“Make all the money given and spend 100% transparent to the public. Every single penny, Restore faith back into the public in the North East that it all spent on the region and not goes into the pocket of the councils”. 

“1.4bln over 30 years spend on a 2 million population equals £23.33 per year or £1.94 a month. Impressive!”.

“Completely misleading. Although that’s not surprising is it?”. 

“This cannot be based in Newcastle- I am also dubious about the negative impact on the other local authorities as Newcastle will attempt to suck all the funding to them”. 

The councils are hopeful yet the public isn’t just yet with this major deal. What do you think?