In his latest column for the Journal newspaper, North East LEP Chair Andrew Hodgson gave an update on recent talks around a devolution deal:
As Chair of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, I’ve made it clear in the past and reiterate my belief that it makes economic sense for a devolution deal to encompass the whole of North East LEP area. For me it’s not about political ideology or money, it’s that making local decisions on local strategic issues is common sense.
The subject is very much back on the political agenda with talks taking place between the three local authorities North of the River Tyne – Northumberland, Newcastle and North Tyneside – and Secretary of State, Sajid Javid, to strike a deal for their area.
It’s clear that despite a huge effort from the LEP and the business community, the seven North East local authorities are not in a position to progress devolution together at this time.
I also appreciate the importance of progressing devolution to a timetable where the North East is not left behind the rest of the country, which in the eyes of Government is to have a mayor by 2018 – a very challenging timetable.
Therefore, we will work with the three councils and any other councils who wish to move towards a devolution deal, to ensure a devolution deal in the North East has business-focused outcomes.
I have confirmed the LEP’s position with both the Government and the north of Tyne councils and insisted that the door must be left open for all, or any, of the local authorities south of the Tyne who may decide in future that they would like to pursue this current devolution opportunity.
I fully respect the decision made by local authority elected representatives and officials south of the Tyne that the terms offered by Government at present are not ones they feel they can recommend to the people they represent. We will continue to ensure businesses in the south of the region are not disadvantaged by the on-going discussions.
Any deal for the north of the region should have the delivery of the Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) at its heart to boost economic growth.
We’ve been refreshing our SEP and are looking forward to profiling the immense progress that has been made in terms of its delivery and contribution to increasing our economy.
Taking local control over finance and powers for areas such as housing, skills and transport can only help our growth and successfully deliver the bold agenda set out in the SEP.
For example, securing £380m in North East Growth Deal funding, piloting the Good Career Guidance Benchmarks programme, funded by the Gatsby Foundation, with 16 schools and colleges, and creating a North East Innovation Board of industry leaders to steer major investment projects are all important milestones – but need to be built upon by any devolution deal.
We’ve come far and achieved much in a short space of time, but there’s still a long way to go for the North East economy to contribute its full worth to the Northern Powerhouse and UK.