The devolution door stays open

Coun Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, Norma Redfearn, Elected Mayor for North Tyneside,  and Coun Peter Jackson, leader of Northumberland County Council.
Coun Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, Norma Redfearn, Elected Mayor for North Tyneside, and Coun Peter Jackson, leader of Northumberland County Council.

The door will always be open for councils south of the river to join the North of Tyne devolution deal, according to North Tyneside Mayor Norma Redfearn.

As North Tyneside’s cabinet voted unanimously to approve moving ahead with devolution, councillors questioned why the four councils south of the Tyne weren’t joining.

The North of Tyne Combined Authority devolution deal, which includes an elected Mayor, will bring £600million to the area over the next 30 years and has been heralded as a major economic boost.

The previous devolution deal, which was to include Newcastle, Gateshead, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Sunderland and Durham councils, was scrapped.

At an extraordinary cabinet meeting, the Mayor said: “I’m pleased to bring this forward. It has been a long time coming as far as I am concerned.

“This is the best thing for the people of North Tyneside and puts the people of North Tyneside first. This could bring 10,000 extra jobs, I can’t understand why any trade union would be against it.”

Coun Ray Glindon asked if any of the four councils south of the Tyne would be able to join the deal if they wanted to.

Mrs Redfearn said it would be too late at this stage of the deal, but once established they could ask the Government to join at a later date.

Coun John Sterling added: “This is something I have thought should happen for a long, long time. I don’t understand why the other four councils didn’t see this as the way forward. There’s money coming in.”

Although Ms Redfearn said the North of Tyne councils – Newcastle, Northumberland and North Tyneside – had worked hard on a deal that wouldn’t upset ‘friends south of the river’, she hit out at the other authorities for not being democratic and doing what was best for the people living in the area.

Referring to Durham County Council’s referendum on the previous devolution deal in early 2016, she said: “They spent £200,000 on a referendum, the majority of people said they wanted devolution then they pulled out. That’s not democracy to me.”

If the deal progresses as planned, the new combined authority will be set up in summer 2018, with the first mayoral elections slated to take place in May 2019.