In this series, we're going to be looking at devolution - what it is, how it could work across the region, what powers a NE Mayor could have and so on. To kick us off: a brief overview of what 'devolution' actually is.
Simply put – the UK government is handing over certain powers and funding to a local administration, the newly created North East Mayoral Combined Authority (NE MCA). According to the North East Devolution Deal policy paper, this process will strengthen local leadership to act more flexibly and innovatively to respond to local need, whether on transport, skills or regeneration.
The Local Government Association argues that the change will result in more effective and better targeted public services, coupled with greater growth from stronger partnerships between local public, private and community leaders as decisions are made closer to the communities and businesses they affect. Because devolution will provide greater freedom and flexibility at a local level, each council will be able to work more efficiently to improve their area.
Does devolution work?
Most devolved areas are able to increase access to affordable travel schemes but other initiatives include:
the first Mayoral Development Corporation (a legal body set up to regenerate an area with the power to acquire/develop land and facilitate the provision of infrastructure) outside of London aims to create 20,000 jobs and boost the local economy by £1 billion per year over the next 25 years.
business support programmes and an investment fund based on locally identified market gaps support over 11,000 businesses.
Greater Manchester Combined Authority:
due to the devolution of health and social care, the Greater Manchester Population Health Plan update shows significant local health benefits including an increase in school readiness and a smoking rate falling at double the national average.
£13.5 million of devolution deal funding used to help over 10,000 people made redundant/at risk of redundancy due to Covid-19 upskill, retrain or find work plus, due to the combined authority’s control of the adult education budget, a tailored skills programme addressing local needs including the new Local Digital Skills Partnership.
West Midlands Combined Authority:
establishment of new partnerships between employers, colleges, universities and other training providers in addition to increased expertise, capacity and resilience for local councils with collaborative and cross-boundary projects including the Violence Reduction Partnership, Town Centres Programme and the Tackling Health Inequalities programme.
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority:
employment-focused Anglia Ruskin University, an initiative of partners and key stakeholders.
So, what will we get…and what do we have to do for it?
The exact figure is a little elusive (as the figures don’t appear to correspond) however it’s understood that devolution will be worth £4.2bn to the North East over the next 30 years.
The North East Devolution Deal will bring together County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland councils and give the NE MCA control over the new City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement to upgrade public transport, devolve control of the Adult Education budget, the building of new affordable homes on brownfield sites and a funding pot £20m of capital in this spending round period to drive place-based economic regeneration across the region.
Although the devolution deal is dependent on the North East accepting the position of an elected mayor, the question as to whether YOU want one or not appears to be irrelevant. An online public consultation opened on 26th January but…on 27th January, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove and our council leaders met at the Baltic to sign the deal!
You can still have your say as the survey is open until 23rd March in order to compile reports which will be taken back to each Cabinet and a summary of responses and any proposed submissions on behalf of the Councils for the Secretary of State before laying an order in parliament.
Series continues HERE with 'What powers will the Mayor have?'