Public consultation has opened on the North East’s new devolution deal, and local residents, businesses, trade unions, voluntary organisations and other stakeholders have eight weeks until 23 March to respond.
People in the seven council areas in Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, and County Durham covered by the deal and with a population of almost 2mn are being asked a series of questions in an online survey.
The consultation opens on the day that Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove was at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead to sign the deal with local leaders. He said:
“I am proud to sign this historic devolution deal for the North East today, which will give local leaders the flexibility and freedom they need to tackle the most pressing issues affecting the day-to-day lives of people in the area.
“Levelling up the North East remains an absolute priority for the government, and I look forward to working closely with local leaders to unlock fresh opportunities that create tangible benefits for people right across the region.”
The deal will see the abolition of the two existing combined authorities of North of Tyne (NTCA) and North East (NECA) to be replaced by a single new North East Mayoral Combined Authority (NEMCA) from May 2024, when a new mayor will be elected.
NEMCA will receive powers, responsibilities and funding devolved from Westminster and Whitehall but will not take powers from the seven existing councils, unless subsequently by mutual agreement.
It will get:
- An investment fund of £1.4bn, or £48mn a year, to support inclusive economic growth and support regeneration
- An indicative budget of around £1.8bn, or £60m a year, for adult education and skills
- A £900mn package of investment to transform the transport system, with £563m from the City Regional Sustainable Transport Fund, on top of funding already announced for buses and the Metro system
- £69mn of investment in housing and regeneration, unlocking sites to bring forward new housing and commercial development.
The deal is expected by the councils to create 24,000 extra jobs, deliver 70,000 courses per year to give people the skills to get good jobs, and leverage £5bn of private sector investment.
The new powers it will receive cover areas such as transport, including bus franchising – which will allow NEMCA to control bus services, routes and fares – skills, housing, finance and economic development.
At the end of the consultation, a report will be brought back to each of the seven cabinets and a summary of responses and any proposed submissions on behalf of the councils sent to Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove, to consider before laying an order in parliament.
The North East devolution deal has been under negotiation between the councils and the government for around two years and was finally announced by Gove on 28 December. The councils’ cabinets all agreed to it in principle last week.