A Minister for the North East is needed 'in the room' with David Cameron

Newcastle MP and former cabinet minister says David Cameron will not bother to consult with the newly-formed North East Combined Authority

Nick Brown MP
Nick Brown MP, a former Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

A regional minister “in the room” with David Cameron is the only person who can make the case for the North East, a former holder of the post has said.

Nick Brown, who was Minister for the North East before the job was scrapped, said a representative in the cabinet can push for more powers and a better share of spending - while local councillors on the North East Combined Authority (NECA) will be ignored.

The Labour MP for Newcastle East said the Prime Minister will not delay cabinet business to consult the newly-formed authority, and the region could lose out as a result.

He said: “I think it is essential that we have a Westminster minister concerned only with the North East.

“The Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly have a regional minister. Our problems are not dissimilar to theirs. They they have a voice at the heart of Government but we don’t.

“If it wasn’t worth having, wouldn’t they have given up on it? They haven’t because they are powerful advocates and they are placed right at the heart of government.”

The former chief whip is sceptical that the NECA is the answer to greater regional power.

“I think when the cabinet meets, the Prime Minister doesn’t say: ‘Hold on, what do the councillors think? We better ask them,’” he said. “You are either in the room or you are not, and we certainly are not.”

He added: “The economic arguments for the North East are exceptional and we should be a special case. We need more than generalised statements.”

Simon Henig, leader of NECA, said the authority would have a voice.

“Nick Brown has been consistent and he was a very effective regional minister himself. The more people speaking up for the region the better,” he said.

“We are so far from London geographically that it is important that we have lots of voices and that we all have the same agenda.

“It is true that MPs can raise issues directly with the government. Those opportunities are not open to councils and it is a big advantage but equally we need to make sure that councils do have those opportunities.

“The combined authority will have a chance to put issues to the Government in the future.”

Mr Brown also said the region’s Police and Crime Commissioners - Northumbria Police’s Vera Baird, Durham’s Ron Hogg and Cleveland Barry Coppinger - should be kept because they are doing a good job.

Labour is set to abolish the post should it win power in the next general election. He said: “The same argument that an exception should be made for the North East is true of our police services,” he said. “Labour’s three North East police and crime commissioners have shown that the job can be done properly.”


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