Northumberland County Council boss still not convinced devo deal is good idea
Talks which could release hundreds of millions of pounds for North East transport projects are still ongoing, but bosses in Northumberland remain unconvinced.
Government ministers have raised the prospect of major cash injections if a new devolution deal can be agreed for the region.
But Glen Sanderson, the leader of Northumberland County Council, has repeated his belief that the current arrangement with a North of Tyne Combined Authority made up of Northumberland, Newcastle and North Tyneside and headed by an elected mayor, is the best option for his county.
“The offer on the table is provisionally that if we do become an [combined authority of seven North East councils], with a mayor to cover the whole area, that we might be eligible to get extra transport funding,” Cllr Sanderson told the most recent full meeting of the county council.
“And I’ve made it clear that actually the way we work together at the moment is very good – it’s informal, but we work very well together and myself and the other leaders have a very good working relationship.
“I don’t see the need yet to commit Northumberland to a larger authority, unless I’m absolutely convinced that Northumberland would benefit from it and at the moment I’m not.”
Previous talks to convert the North East Combined Authority, then made up of Northumberland, County Durham and the five Tyne and Wear authorities, into a mayoral authority headed by a directly-elected leader broke down in 2016.
The decision saw Northumberland, Newcastle and North Tyneside break away to form the North of Tyne Combined Authority, with Labour’s Jamie Driscoll later elected mayor.
Last month’s budget saw Teesside and Greater Manchester, both of which have mayors, benefit from a £7 billion boost to public transport outside London, while the North East missed out.
Ministers have said new powers will only be handed to the region when a new devolution deal is agreed covering at least all of Tyne and Wear.
Cllr Sanderson added: “Discussions are continuing.
“There’s no firm proposals on the table, but I will keep [county councillors] involved and if I think we are going to get to the stage when we need to start making a firm decision, [we will] have a discussion and debate about it.”