North East open to adopting elected mayor

20 Jul 15

The seven councils of the North East Combined Authority have said they are willing to consider the adoption of an elected mayor for the region as part of a devolution deal with government.

In a letter sent to communities secretary Greg Clark on Friday, the authorities confirmed they wished to begin detailed devolution negotiations, and had a “open mind” about the necessary governance structures.

The statement comes after a devolution deal for Cornwall was confirmed last week, while George Osborne’s summer Budget set out plans for devolution to Sheffield, West Yorkshire and Liverpool city regions, as well as further powers for Greater Manchester.

The chancellor has called for combined authorities in urban areas to adopt mayors in exchange for devolution of powers, including local control of NHS spending.

Simon Henig, NECA chair and leader of Durham council, said the group now wanted to explore “the scope for a radical devolution deal for the North East, with substantial devolution of powers and responsibilities”.

He added: “In parallel to this, we will consider with government the most appropriate governance structures, including an elected mayor, to oversee those new powers.

“We will approach this process of negotiation with an open mind about where this takes us and are all firmly committed to seizing the opportunity that real devolution presents for our region.”

The seven council areas – Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland – said they wanted discussions to focus on devolution of powers to boost exports. Greater local control of businesses support schemes could allow for a greater focus on helping firms take advantage of international opportunities, its letter to Clark stated.

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