NEvolution: 'Hand region a much bigger say'

The call for more power to the North East is being made by regional leaders in Whitehall talks

The call for more power to the North East is being made by regional leaders in Whitehall talks.

Council chiefs and politicians have backed a campaign by The Journal and all other North East papers that seeks to secure a greater say for the region over key spending decisions.

That backing comes amid growing pressure on George Osborne to use his spending review to support recommendations made by former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine and give councils and business partnerships a say over how skills, growth and transport cash is spent regionally.

Already the region can cite work on City Deals as a key example in what can be achieved when ministers agree to hand over more power.

In Newcastle that meant £92m of borrowing powers and investment set to transform the city. Council leaders in Sunderland are bidding for a second such deal to build a new automotive park and the tax return used to rebuild parts of the city centre.

Newcastle Council leader Nick Forbes said: “The core city group – for which I am vice chair – has met with Cities Minister Greg Clark and Michael Heseltine to go over the next step in devolution to major cities.”

Speaking after a meeting with shadow chancellor Ed Balls to push for any future Labour Government to back devolution, Mr Forbes added: “The Government appears to be adopting a policy approach in which cities can make a difference, they seem prepared to listen and the NEvolution campaign is a fantastic tool for fighting for this.

“We can show here at a North East level that when we come together as a region it is for everyone’s benefit, and the best way of supporting that from the Government is for the Government to let more decisions that affect the North East be taken in the North East.”

The council leader said plans for a combined authority bringing together seven councils from Northumberland to Durham would strengthen that cause. South Tyneside Council leader Iain Malcolm has been at the forefront of efforts to set up the organisation, with each council holding a meeting later this month to pass measures needed to combine action on economic growth. Mr Malcolm told The Journal: “What both Lord Heseltine and Lord Adonis have said is that the North East has the capacity to drive economic growth and help the Government reach its change agenda.

“But to do that we need more than just the good will shown in the NEvolution campaign, we need ministers to hand us a say over the finances used to support economic growth.

“Ministers have the chance to devolve decision making down to the combined authority level so that we and businesses can set out the best use of limited funds for the benefit of the North East.”

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer