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Devolution deal for Newcastle region further delayed by neighbours

A vote to dissolve the North East Combined Authority to make way for deal collapses for a second time.

By Augusta Riddy

The North of the Tyne devolution deal has experienced further delay, with a vote to devolve the existing combined authority planned for the 17th April suspended for a second time.

Four councils south of the River Tyne caused the collapse of the first proposed North East devolution deal in late 2016, when they voted against going further with the plan. After this setback, three councils – Newcastle City, North Tyneside and Northumberland – decided to pursue their own devolution deal. The proposed North of the Tyne devolution deal was to include £600m of government investment and a metro mayor, along similar lines to devolution deals that have taken place in Manchester and Liverpool.

In areas beyond the North-West, however, such as the Tyne region and Yorkshire, the devolution plans of central government have met with local opposition.

For a North of the Tyne combined authority to be created, councils must vote in favour of dissolving the current authority, and four councils south of the Tyne – Gateshead Council, South Tyneside Council, Sunderland City Council and Durham County Council – have once more voted to oppose this.

Council leaders have expressed concern about creating a split in the region; earlier in the year Durham County Council insisted that “any proposals must be on the explicit basis that it does not lead to any detriment to the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of the residents of South Tyneside.”

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Of the delay, Paul Swinney of the Centre for Cities said:

“This shows that trying to break up a combined authority is very difficult, particularly one where transport has for a long time operated across a number of local authorities in the way that Nexus, which runs the Metro light rail system, does. It’s right that due time is given to work out the details, but this will need to be resolved sooner rather than later if there is to be a mayoral election in just over a year from now.”

The councils have agreed to delay a final decision and plan to meet again during the week commencing 23rd April. A spokesperson for the current combined authority said the deferment “will allow additional time for the seven local authorities to finalise detailed proposals for joint working in the future.”

The Mayor of North Tyneside, Norma Redfearn, emphasised that once the deal had been put in place, the door would be open for councils south of the river to join. For now, however, the clock is ticking to complete this necessary step.

Read more on why Newcastle has been cut in half by devolution.

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