I’d like to start by wishing a very Happy New Year to all my readers and residents. I hope you’ve had a great Christmas and that you have things to look forward to in 2023.
One of the biggest things I’ll be doing during 2023, I hope, is to be voting through the massive new £4 billion North East devolution deal that was announced just a few days ago. The new deal dwarfs the one agreed back in 2018 to create the North of Tyne Combined Authority. An enlarged area of devolved powers will be created, extending south and west. This means that North Tyneside, Northumbria and Newcastle will be joined by Durham, Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland. As a result over 2 million residents are affected.
Here are some of the key benefits of the deal that stand out to me:
- It will bring closer collaboration between key towns and cities around the Tyne and Wear area. This is really important for strategic economic development. Working together towards agreed objectives will make our whole area more economically dynamic and prosperous.
- It means that more of the important policy decisions can be made here in the North East, by people who really understand what makes the region tick, rather than by civil servants down in London.
- The timescale is long-term, 30 years, which offers security and the ability to plan. The scope is also very broad, way beyond the creation of the £1.4 billion North East Investment Fund to support business growth.
- In particular, I think the £60 million a year for Adult education and skills will be a real gamechanger. From my limited position as a local councillor without a cabinet portfolio I’ll be doing everything I can to ensure every penny of this is spent strategically. For me this is where the opportunity really lies for many local people. For all those who didn’t leave school with much by the way of qualifications this can offer a second chance. And for all those who feel stuck in a job that doesn’t seem like it has much by way of prospects it will give the chance to reskill, upskill and progress to something better.
- The huge investment in regional transport networks also really stands out, with nearly a billion of funding under consideration. All modes of transport are considered within the mix, there really is something for everyone, whether you are a driver, public transport user or cyclist. New powers to bring the regional Bus network back into public ownership are quite eye-catching.
- Other things covered by the deal include transitioning to clean energy, new housing, digital connectivity, arts, culture and sport.
All in all, much to look forward to. It will take the whole of 2023 to jump through all of the various hoops to getting the deal agreed but I trust we’ll get there one step at a time. Elections for the post of North East Regional Mayor are expected to happen in mid 2024.
The text of the proposed deal is now in the public domain so those of you we an appetite for these things (48 pages long) can take a look for yourself by clicking here.
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