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More devolution to the region - call for more scrutiny and debate in first reaction from Newcastle Liberal Democrats

June 30, 2022 4:06 PM

Cllr Greg Stone 2019I was interested to read of the warm endorsement by North East business organisations of documents relating to the region's bid for a further Devolution Deal, which will reportedly lead to an extra £100 million a year for the region and a promised 17,000 new jobs, along with a new regional elected mayor, says Greg Stone

Few would turn their noses up at such an inviting offer, or the principle of greater devolution to the region, but it is striking that as yet, there has been no public scrutiny of the proposals and no details published of the deal. The only involvement in behind closed doors negotiations with the Government has been from local authority leaders and chief executives. At the time of writing, no substantive proposals have been presented to elected councillors, let alone the public.

It is perhaps inevitable that the great and the good of the region will proclaim their warm support for more money for the region, and that council leaders will assure us that the difficulties and disunity which have prevented a previous region-wide deal are a thing of the past and we can look forward to a future of harmony and prosperity.

Similar proclamations were made when the North of Tyne Deal was concluded, only for the region to belatedly realise that it was under-powered and resulted in transport governance arrangements that all now accept are sub-optimal.

Would it be asking too much to seek an assurance that the details of the Deal will be subject to wider public scrutiny and public debate and perhaps even a public mandate before councils proceed to rubber-stamp it? It would be a shame for the region to be asked to unquestioningly accept another pig in a poke.

Cllr Greg Stone speaks for the LIberal Democrats on business matters on Newcastle City Council.

He's a member of the North of Tyne Overview and Scrutiny Committee