Labour must stop their squabbling sabotaging region's future

May 19, 2016 2:08 PM

Although few would dispute the need for a devolution deal for the North East to give the region more power and funding for economic development, skills, and transport, as well as health and social care, there is growing concern in the region over the inability of North East council leaders to get their act together to ensure the deal goes through.

The region had until early May to conclude a deal with Government, but the process is in disarray as a result of Gateshead council's failure to sign up, leading to the highly respected council leader Mick Henry stepping down. Other councils including Durham, Northumberland, and Sunderland are decidedly lukewarm about the deal. How have we got into this mess?

It would be a huge blow to the region if the devolution process fails, and north east council leaders have to take the blame - their inability to agree amongst themselves amid inter-regional rivalry is putting the region's economic regeneration at risk. Whilst it is acknowledged that the deal may not be perfect, this opportunity must not be squandered.

It is now urgent that the region makes progress . Whilst few are enthusiastic a regional elected mayor, and there are legitimate concerns about the prospect of business as usual under - no one want anymore 'one party states' there is still time to come up with a better proposal which provides more powers, more funding, and better safeguards in terms of cross-party involvement through the scrutiny system, with a view to greater devolution over time.

It is time for the North East to get their act together and work with other parties to ensure a deal which benefits the region as a whole - they will not be forgiven if their squabbling sabotages the opportunity for a greater say over the North East's future.

Cllr Anita Lower, Leader of the Opposition, Newcastle City Council

This letter just published in First, the magazine for local government, published by the Local Government Association