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Lib Dem leaders respond to Labour infighting and indecision on Combined Authority

January 18, 2014 4:55 PM

The following is an open letter from Lib Dem leaders in the North East, published in The Journal on 18th January 2014.

On behalf of the seven local authority areas due to make up the new Combined Authority for Durham, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear, we are writing to express our dismay at the Labour infighting and indecision which threatens the plan, and with it the prospects for growth in this region.

There has been no change in the proposals since they were submitted, so it is unclear why the leader of Sunderland Council has withdrawn his support. To be clear, the combined authority won't take powers from Sunderland or any other council. It will draw down additional powers for the region.

Any spending by the new authority would require unanimous agreement - so Paul Weston can block any spending (and hence any accumulation of debt) that he doesn't like. It is deeply disappointing, therefore, with the Coalition Government poised to deliver the powers and resources the region has long sought, to see the Labour Party willing to sacrifice it for the sake of internal party squabbles.

Time and again, even with a Labour government for 13 years and a North East prime minister, the region has been let down by the Labour Party. The Liberal Democrats believe that there is scope for improving scrutiny and accountability in the proposed Combined Authority, but are united in supporting the urgent need for the Combined Authority to help the North East stand strong.

We call upon Ed Miliband to intervene to make his colleagues sees sense and put economic well-being of the region ahead of petty personal rivalries.

To quote from Sir Alan Beith MP : "It would be a great mistake to miss this chance to get the North East some of the powers that London now takes for granted. I want us to be sure that Northumberland's rural area get a fair deal under this approach, but if Sunderland City Council blocks any change, the North-East will lose an opportunity which is not likely to be offered again"

Signed by these Liberal Democrat Leaders and Chairs
Cllr Anita Lower Newcastle
Cllr Jeff Reid Northumberland
Cllr Amanda Hopgood County Durham
Cllr Frank Hindle Gateshead Liberal Democrats
Cllr David Ord North Tyneside
Cllr Ian Jones North East chair / South Tyneside
Philip Dowell Party Chair, Wearside