A Labour Government would bring back the position of Minister for the North East as part of a radical package of measures to devolve power to the regions.
And the announcement received a warm welcome from MPs, peers and councillors in the region.
Labour leader Ed Miliband yesterday said the party’s General Election manifesto would focus on plans for “devolving power from Whitehall to our towns and cities”, to create jobs and “rebuild the middle class”.
This included stripping Whitehall of £20bn and handing the money to local authorities to spend on transport, housing, training and programmes to get unemployed people into work.
Councils “will receive powers and access to resources from Whitehall the like of which we have not seen in living memory,” he said.
The North East had a regional minister under the last Labour government, with the post being held by Newcastle upon Tyne East MP Nick Brown, but the post was scrapped when the Coalition came into power.
Welcoming Mr Miliband’s announcement, Mr Brown said: “Regional Ministers were particularly effective in the Northern English planning regions.
“Ed Miliband’s announcement today is especially good news for the North East of England. Our region needs a Ministerial champion in Government.”
Under a Labour government, regional ministers would encourage local councils, central government and Local Enterprise Partnerships, the economic development bodies led by the business community, to work closely together.
They would champion their area in Whitehall and ensure that the impact of policy proposals on every part of the country is considered.
And they will encourage tourism and act as a visible representative of their region at major events.
Labour would appoint nine regional ministers in total, sitting on a new Regional Committee chaired by the Minister for the Cabinet Office.
Bridget Phillipson, Labour MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, said: “We need Government in Whitehall working with the regions. Labour’s plans to introduce regional ministers working at the heart of government together with business would go a long way to tackling the growing north south divide.
“We need economic recovery for every region of our country and we have set out how a future Labour government would work to achieve this.”
And Lord Beecham, a former leader of Newcastle City Council and now a Labour peer, said: “I very much welcome the proposal for regional ministers who would have the ability to represent the interests of the regions at the heart of Government and ensure that departments and agencies work together rather than simply pursue their own agendas.”
Mr Miliband also set out plans to take £20bn from central government over the course of the next Parliament and send the cash directly to the regions of England for councils to spend.
To qualify, councils would need to work together to create a “combined authority” - giving the North East an advantage, as it is one of the first regions to create such an authority. Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, said: “I’m delighted that Ed is announcing plans to set cities free from central control – it’s ridiculous that cities in England have fewer powers than cities in communist China.”
He added: “We would have weathered the recent recession much more successfully had we got a more diverse economy in the UK, less reliant on banking and financial services and less London-centric.
“People in the North East have a much better idea of what our transport, housing and training requirements are than civil servants or ministers based in Whitehall.”