Plans for an historic devolution deal for the North East of England have received widespread support from across the region.
An eight-week consultation earlier this year asked residents, businesses and other stakeholders to give their views on the proposed scheme– the document that sets out how devolution would be implemented.
Feedback saw respondents welcome the proposed increase in regional power, a greater profile for the North East, and closer working arrangements among key organisations.
In total, it is expected to provide £4.2 billion of additional investment to the region over 30 years, including a £1.4bn investment fund alongside significant funding for transport, education and skills, housing and regeneration.
The deal would involve the creation of a new mayoral combined authority covering County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland, and is projected to create 24,000 additional jobs in the area and unlock £5 billion additional private sector investment into the region.
A total of 3,235 individuals and organisations from across the region took part in the consultation process. Participants were asked to consider five key areas around the proposals, and in all instances, the majority of respondents agreed with the plans.
These were governance of the proposed North East Mayoral Combined Authority (61% agreed) as well as its plans around transport (67%), housing and planning (60%), finance and investment (53%), and skills, employment and adult education (65%).
Welcoming the positive reaction from across the North East, the leaders of the seven local authorities said: “The findings paint a clear picture of a united North East that wants to see us work together to drive our region forward and unlock further opportunities in the future.
“We are confident that the changes will have economic, social and wellbeing impact by creating more good jobs and homes as well as creating a better-connected region.
“This consultation has provided us with a significant amount of positive feedback, as well as lots of important considerations to take on board, to ensure the North East Mayoral Combined Authority delivers for the near two million people who call our region their home.
“We would like to thank everyone who took part for helping us to progress with this historic opportunity that has the potential to transform our region for the better.”
The consultation involved an online survey inviting people to comment on the proposed deal, 15 in-person events across the region for members of the public to hear about the plans, and a further nine briefings aimed at key stakeholders from different sectors.
In addition to members of the public responding to the survey, a number of key organisations from around the region submitted responses lending their support to the deal.
These included private businesses, voluntary and community sector organisations, trade unions, educational institutions, sports clubs and public sector bodies who welcomed the proposed investment and opportunities the deal could provide.
The proposed deal was agreed with government in December 2022, and the £4.2bn investment package includes:
An investment fund of £1.4bn, or £48m a year, to support inclusive economic growth and support our regeneration priorities
An indicative budget of around £1.8bn, or £60m a year, for adult education and skills – to meet local skills priorities and improve opportunities for residents
A £900m package of investment to transform our transport system, with £563m from the City Regional Sustainable Transport Fund, on top of funding already announced for our buses and metro system
£69m of investment in housing and regeneration, unlocking sites to bring forward new housing and commercial development.
The formation of the new combined authority would not impact on any of the services delivered by the seven local authorities involved. However, the North of Tyne Combined Authority, covering Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland, and the North East Combined Authority covering County Durham, Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland, would both cease to operate.
The deal announced with government also includes scope for the region to enter into ‘trailblazer’ negotiations to enable the North East to play a leading role in further devolution of powers and investment in the future.
A summary of the consultation findings will now be presented to the respective Cabinets of each of the seven constituent local authorities and two combined authorities. Should all agree to proceed with the plans the findings will be presented to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to consider before laying an order in Parliament to establish the new combined authority.
Subject to these steps, it is expected that an election to appoint a new mayor would take place in May 2024, at which point the new North East Mayoral Combined Authority would come into effect.
Read the cabinet report and consultation report here.