Newcastle and North East to join 'cabinet for England' under Labour Government

Labour leader Ed Miliband is pledging new laws to bring home rule to English regions - and encouraging them to create elected mayors

Labour leader Ed Miliband
Labour leader Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband would chair a Cabinet of the English Regions bringing together leaders of major cities such as Newcastle and Government ministers if he becomes Prime Minister, he is set to announce.

Chairs of combined authorities, such as the North East authority chaired by Councillor Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council, would also attend the new English committee which would meet regularly - giving them a say on issues such as transport, health and education which affect their regions.

A Labour government would also introduce new laws to ensure councils can seize control of bus services without fear of a legal challenge.

The North East Combined Authority has already voted unanimously to introduce a Quality Contract Scheme for Tyne and Wear, giving councils more control over services, but faces a battle with bus companies bitterly opposed to the scheme.

And Labour would also pass an English Devolution Act, enshrining in law new powers for local councils and combined authorities to manage funding for transport and housing, further education and support for employers, as well as giving them a formal role in commissioning health and social care.

Mr Miliband is announcing the three-point plan for a dramatic shift of power away from Westminster to the regions of England as he meets local authority leaders in Manchester today.

The announcements were welcomed by Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, who said: “There is recognition in these proposals that we need a new relationship between local and national government.

“An English Regional Cabinet Committee which includes senior secretaries of state as well as local authority leaders is a significant step forward.”

Many of the new powers will be aimed specifically at combined authorities, with councils which have not yet joined forces with their neighbours strongly encouraged to do so.

County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland have already formed a North East combined authority.

However, other councils, such as Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar & Cleveland or Stockton on Tees, are not currently part of combined authorities.

Labour is also encouraging combined authorities to create directly-elected mayors to lead them, but stresses that the final decision on this lies with local councils themselves.

Mr Miliband is expected to say today: “Labour has a radical plan for spreading power and prosperity across England’s city and county regions, so that the recovery reaches your town square – not just the Square Mile of the City of London.”

And he will stress Labour’s backing for councils which seek to take control of bus services.

The Labour leader is today convening a “preparatory” meeting of a Shadow English Regional Cabinet Committee, similar to the committee he will chair as Prime Minister.

Mary Creagh, the Shadow Transport Secretary, and Hilary Benn, Shadow Local Government Secretary, will attend alongside Veronica Dunn, Newcastle City Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Services and Public Health, and senior councillors from across the country.

The first full meeting will be held in January with a report from Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, on how the first Spending Review of a Labour Government will ensure funding is devolved to local authorities.

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