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No public consultation, insufficient powers - first reaction to devolution deal from Liberal Democrats

November 24, 2017 6:41 PM
Newcastle Civic CentreThe Government has announced a North of Tyne Authority will be set up (as long as Labour councils south of Tyne agee) with £30 million a year funding and the aim of increasing productivity and jobs. On an interim basis it is likely to be based in Newcastle
Liberal Democrats in Newcastle say that there are some steps forward here which we can welcome, such as funding for brownfield housing developments, schools improvement challenge, and greater control of skills and training budgets. However, we have some concern at the prospect of a mayoral authority which will divide Newcastle and Gateshead and is significantly underpowered compared to competitor city-regions. We regret that it is being imposed on the electorate without a mandate and without public consultation.
The region's political establishment has failed to make a notable success of the North East Combined Authority. We are sceptical that this new structure will enable Newcastle, North Tyneside, and Northumberland to keep pace with the likes of Manchester and Birmingham, with their hude budgets. It lacks the more substantive powers on offer to other city-regions in respect of health and social care, and transport that look set to make a big difference to the growth and success of major city-regions like Greater Manchester and the West Midlands. This Deal makes it more likely that the North East will compete with itself rather than the rest of the country, as North of Tyne, the South of Tyne rump of NECA, and Tees Valley vie to secure investment.

The Liberal Democrats are committed to the principle of greater devolution to the region, but we believe devolution be most effective when it is given the powers to realise our region's true potential. We will do what we can to scrutinise the Deal and to hold its office holders to account, and want to see Opposition representatives leading the new authority's scrutiny function. We hope that over time the structure and scope of the Deal can be expanded if progress is achieved.