All journeys have to begin at a starting point and the North East could be about to take the first step on the road to devolution.
It’s a well worn phrase over the past few months, but it’s no exaggeration to say that devolution offers us a once in a generation chance to help shape an improved economic future for the North East of England.
There’s a real economic momentum being built up around the Strategic Economic Plan, supporting business growth and job creation.
Devolution presents us with a chance to really capitalise on this momentum.
The LEP has consistently expressed its support for devolution for the North East and I reiterate that support as chair.
I recognise however that not everybody is happy with what is being offered by Government.
I fully respect that. At the end of the day, they are elected members of a local authority and they have made what they believe is the best judgement for local people.
On a personal level, I also think there is much more we can do, and respect people looking at the devolution deal and thinking ‘is that good enough?’
But the deal was never going to be perfect from day one. It is more about how we can get to where we want to be.
We have a stark choice now to decide either not to participate in devolution or go with it and work alongside Government to get the best possible deal we can for the North East.
The areas that were involved in the devolution process early tell us that we have got to do this in phases.
Manchester has been on this devolution path a little longer and they are starting to reap the benefits.
We have got to establish how we can make devolution work for us and use that as the platform to achieve bigger and better things.
Continuing negotiations and discussions with Government, as the combined authority is doing, together with a very strong business voice to help further improve the delivery of the Strategic Economic Plan for the region, has to be the way forward.
The business members of the North East LEP board are fully supportive of how our fellow board members as combined authority leaders are trying to deliver on that.
Ultimately, devolution only really matters when it makes sense to people and not just to business organisations, politicians or indeed, the LEP.
And as with all journeys, you have to begin somewhere to travel to the point you want to get to. The devolution deal is just that – a deal and it can be improved.
We have to respect the fact there are differing opinions and compromises will have to be made.
But we have the opportunity to take our own path to a better and more prosperous economic future.
The devolution deal will allow us to better take the really big decisions that will help us deliver on more of the ambitions set out in the Strategic Economic Plan which is crucial to the sustainable growth of our economy.
Andrew Hodgson, North East LEP Chair.