The North East will attract more government investment and more devolved powers if local authorities continue to work together, North East MP Guy Opperman has said.
He said the region was catching up with the Greater Manchester area, seen as a model of co-operation where local authorities have worked in partnership for years.
Speaking to The Journal at the Conservative conference in Manchester, Mr Opperman, Tory MP for Hexham, also insisted the party had policies which benefitted the North East, and said it had a good chance of winning the seat of Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland, next to his constituency, which is currently held by the Liberal Democrats.
The Government had encouraged North East councils to come together and form a combined authority, he said.
“We have urged them to come together and to work collectively, and if they do work collectively then central government will support them hugely
“And the proof of that is, you look at what happened to Manchester, who are the lightning rod for all regional development, they have clubbed together, they have worked on a cross party basis, and collectively central government has supported such an approach.
“As the North East does that more and more I am sure that there will be greater devolution, particularly for transport and skills.
“It has to be the case that we look collectively across the region and we allow the region to say what transport development they want.”
But Manchester currently led the way, he said.
“Everybody can see that the way in which Manchester have come together, worked together, pitched to government, stuck together and then successfully got greater devolution from Government to the Greater Manchester area - they are ahead of us, there’s no question. But we are catching up fast.”
Conservatives were in with a good chance of winning Berwick at the next election, he said.
“I am quite confident about Berwick. There is a lot of work to be done still, there is no complacency.
“But we have an exceptional candidate who is very well known after nine years working in the constituency, who lives, works and brings her children up in the constituency.
Who will, I genuinely believe, win this seat.”