I write to express concern about the actions of the leadership of the three councils – North Tyneside, Newcastle and Northumberland – involved in the ‘North of Tyne’ proposals to accept the offer from the government to devolve council management, services and democracy from the other four councils (Gateshead, Sunderland, South Tyneside, Durham) that make up the North East Combined Authority (NECA).
I am advised that the total for the three council budgets is not more than £21m. Does anyone think that council services and wages can be paid for from a £7m share? Of course they can’t.
So what will we get as voters? More cuts in services and jobs, more inflated debt, such as PFI deals, and far less control over what our councils decide and do.
We will also see the number of elected councillors reduced, which should help focus them on representing the people who put them there.
I have campaigned for many years to improve local public transport, particularly bus services. These are in crisis at present, with declining numbers who can rely upon them.
The only way we can improve this situation is through an integrated network that includes Metro, buses, ferry and rail, which will persuade people to reduce their car usage.
That will only happen through re-regulation.
Other cities with a devolved mayor are being allowed to introduce an element of regulation through franchise contracts. But I have learned that the deal the three leaders have signed up to does not even include that.
So what are we getting from this project and why haven’t we been consulted?
Many readers will remember the last time our councils proposed devolution for this region. It was rejected by the electorate, but at least they were allowed to vote on the matter.
Here, there isn’t a sign of any democracy or accountability.
When were any of us asked to vote on whether we want a devolved council or a council run by a mayor? Certainly not in any recent council election.
So where is their mandate to take this decision without any consultation or engagement with the people they claim to represent?
I would ask readers to write to each of their councillors with a single question: when were they elected to sign up to this deal and break up the NECA area.
And how will any of it benefit voters and ratepayers in any of the three boroughs?