North-east England £1.4bn deal could be ‘transformational’, says mayoral favourite

Labour mayor for North of Tyne, Jamie Driscoll, adds it will not reverse 12 years of austerity under Tories

A £1.4bn devolution deal for north-east England could be “transformational” for the region but would not reverse 12 years of austerity, the frontrunner to be the region’s first mayor has said.

Jamie Driscoll, the Labour mayor for the North of Tyne region, said he did “cartwheels down the street” when the levelling up secretary, Michael Gove, confirmed the new combined authority would receive £48m a year plus powers over transport and skills.

He said it would help “get the north-east back to where it needs to be” and tackle some of the area’s chronic issues, such as low productivity and severe levels of deprivation.

But he said it would not replace the hundreds of millions of pounds that the region’s seven local authorities had lost from their budgets under Conservative governments since 2010.

Driscoll said: “If you’ve seen your library close and leisure centre close and now your social care is crumbling, it’s only human to see devolution as giving a fiver with one hand while taking a tenner with the other.”

As part of the agreement a new mayor will be elected to represent 2 million people in Newcastle, Sunderland, Durham, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Gateshead and Northumberland.

The new north-east mayoral combined authority will be handed powers over transport, education and skills, housing and regeneration. It will include a pot of £48m a year over 30 years, plus a £563m transport budget and a substantial budget for adult education and skills.

The mayor of North of Tyne Jamie Driscoll
Jamie Driscoll said: ‘This idea the north-east should be a left-behind place is a mind-forged manacle we’ve got to shatter, if you’ll let me quote William Blake.’ Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

Driscoll, who was elected to his current role in 2019, confirmed he would run for the Labour nomination to be the first region-wide mayor, a post that will be elected in 2024 if approved after local consultation.

Although the majority of north-east England is not the Labour stronghold it once was, Keir Starmer’s party would be odds-on favourites to win the mayoralty election.

Driscoll, who backed Jeremy Corbyn and chaired the Newcastle branch of Momentum, said the new powers over transport could radically improve prospects in an area four times the size of Greater London.

He said: “It allows us to get towards integrated transport … so we can integrate secure bike storage with a Metro ticket, with getting on the buses, so that if you’ve got a car, you can park and ride, so people can get around our region cheaply, but most importantly, reliably and safely.

“That’s one of the transformational things that needs to happen to get the north-east back to where it should be, as one of the greatest wealth-generating centres which we were for over 100 years.”

He added: “This idea that the north-east should be a left-behind place is a mind-forged manacle that we’ve got to shatter, if you’ll let me quote William Blake.”

It is the sixth devolution deal to be struck this year – the others involved York and North Yorkshire, the east Midlands, Cornwall, Norfolk and Suffolk – as Tory ministers attempt to sign off agreements to help prove their commitment to levelling up.


Josh Halliday North of England correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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