NEvoution: Nick Clegg backs power shift for regions

Nick Clegg has backed The Journal's campaign to bring jobs and economic growth to the North East by transforming the way the region is governed

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg

NICK Clegg has backed The Journal's campaign to bring jobs and economic growth to the North East by transforming the way the region is governed.

The Deputy Prime Minister confirmed that the Government would announce details of the funding and powers it is willing to devolve as part of the spending review on June 26.

Mr Clegg was speaking in the House of Commons after Newcastle MP Catherine McKinnell urged him support the NEvolution campaign.

His comments will increase the pressure on Mr Osborne to make sure significant economic power is decentralised when he announces his spending review later this month.

Speaking in the Commons, Ms McKinnell asked him: “Would the Deputy Prime Minister join me in backing the NEvolution campaign launched by the North East newspapers calling for the Chancellor to devolve more funding and spending decisions to the North East, as recommended by Lord Heseltine?”

Mr Clegg said: “Yes – I can strongly endorse that. And in fact we’ve already announced that we are going to implement the Heseltine recommendations – 81 out of the 89 recommendations that he made – and this really will be a significant moment in which we break from that long, long tradition which has prevailed under Governments of all different persuasions of over-centralisation in England.”

He said the announcement would come on top of measures the Government had already taken to devolve power, including signing “city deals” with local councils.

But Mr Clegg said details of how exactly the Government intended to implement Lord Heseltine’s proposals – including how much money would be devolved – would have to wait until the spending review.

“The next step is an announcement on the size and content of that fund, as part of the spending round,” he said.

The Deputy Prime Minister also highlighted the potential economic benefits to the North East of backing renewable energy and offshore wind farms, as he was urged to ensure rural areas were included.

Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith told him: “The North East of England would benefit greatly from the kind of devolution he is working on, but he also needs to make sure that he rural areas of the North East have a key decision-making role when this happens.”

Mr Clegg pledged to ensure rural areas were not neglected, adding: “The North East in particular has real natural strengths to become not only a national but a European and world-beater in renewable and offshore technologies.”

The Government announced it had accepted most of Lord Heseltine’s recommendations during the Budget statement in March.

But the real test is likely to come when details are revealed about the “single pot” of funding which LEPs will be invited to bid from.

Lord Heseltine suggested devolving a wide range of national programmes, including apprenticeships, housing subsidies and flood defences, as well as the money currently spent on them.

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