North East does not need devolved government, claims MP

Devolved power for the North East has been dismissed by Conservative local government minister Kris Hopkins on a visit to the region

Minister Kris Hopkins, talks at the Durham Fire service HQ
Minister Kris Hopkins

A government minister has said there is no need to change the way the UK is run - despite North East leaders pushing for devolved power.

Speaking on a visit to County Durham Kris Hopkins, under secretary of state for local government and communities, said there was “no need” for changes to power structures in the region.

Focus has shifted to the prospect of greater decentralized government for the North East in the lead-up to the Scottish Referendum on Thursday, with many calling for changes regardless of the way Scotland votes.

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Mr Hopkins, former leader of Bradford City Council, and MP for Keighley, told the Journal he does not see a reason to change the way the North East is governed.

He said: “There is already governance in the north. The people of Newcastle have voted for their leadership, as have Leeds, Sheffield or whatever.

“I’m sure the people of Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Hull, Newcastle, would respect the leadership they have if they can deliver better public services.

“We do not need to change the governance but leaders should pick the phone up sometimes.”

The minister’s comments came on the same day the Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg launched a 10-year timetable for federal government in England.

Mr Clegg said that “if ever there was a time to push for action on decentralisation, it’s now,” as he launched an IPPR report setting out plans for devolution of power over the North’s economy, education, work, housing, transport, criminal justice, probation and the police.

But Mr Hopkins said there would be no money made available to set up an assembly in the north and leaders - such as Newcastle City Council’s Nick Forbes - should focus on working within the systems that are in place rather than looking for alternatives.

Coun Forbes is part of the Core Cities movement which has lobbied government for more powers for the North of England.

Speaking to the Journal earlier this month he said: “Devolved power is something I support. I’ve been working very closely with the other key cities in getting devolved power from central government.”

Mr Hopkins stressed that greater efficiency and multi-agency working would be more effective than spending large amounts of money on setting up decentralised government.

He added: “I don’t think it has to be about more money, it has to be about working more effectively.

“Manchester is very effective and I believe very well thought out.

“This can be done and things are being done but we have got to test all that in the context of our economic situation we are in.

“If the leader in Newcastle wants to talk to other leaders around him to drive out better public services for less money and wants to invest in supporting business and supporting great things that’s the important thing to do - the whole point of localism is about local leadership.”

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