Hepple Parish clerk, David McKechnie,attended a meeting/consultation open to the public on the proposed North of Tyne devolution and mayoral election at Alnwick on 23/1/2018. The following are notes from the meeting.
NorthOfTyne Devolution Consultation at Alnwick on Tuesday, the 23rd of January, 2018
Over 100 people were present, individuals, residents, companies, trade unionists and organisational representatives.
Peter Jackson, Leader, Northumberland County Council introduced the meeting and Geoff Paul (see note iii) Director of Planning and Economy, who has been working on devolution since Sep 2016, spoke at length about what had happened to date and what was planned.
with all the public in North Tyneside, Newcastle and Northumberland
This ends 5/2/18 Respond at www.northoftynedevolution.com/consultation or pick up a booklet containing the questionnaire at your local library, if still open. The "North of Tyne" name is yet to be decided. It was noted that Northumberland includes large areas south of the Tyne. A suggestion that the area should revert to the pre 1974 Northumberland was warmly received by most of the audience but probably not politically viable.
3. Proposed Structure
The cabinet would be composed of the elected Mayor, plus the leader and deputy from each of the 3 councils - Northumberland, North Tyneside and Newcastle. Decisions would be made with voting being the Mayor + 1 person per council. The mayor would not have a deciding vote, so all decisions must be consensual. As currently there are 2 labour councils, 1 conservative + the Mayor, if Labour combined they could block anything they did not agree with.
The focus would be on:- Energy, Culture & Creative, Digital & 5G, Life Sciences & Ageing
Specifically, the Mayor and Cabinet would be responsible for:-
Adult Education, with a £23m budget
Founding and running a new Institute of Technology. There will be only 10 in the UK,and one has been agreed for North of Tyne
Housing - to help facilitate/speed up the implementation of the three Council's plans, not to duplicate or add to existing plans.
Jobs - lots of talk about increasing jobs but no specifics, except for the Rural Business Scale Up, which is aimed at increasing small firms jobs from 4 to 20, 20 to 50, 50 to 100
Low Carbon Energy, building on the expertise we already have in this area.
Great North Exhibition 2018.(See note iv)
The government would provide £600m "new"? money. This is equivalent to a small Mars bar per person per week over 30 years. With inflation, the £20m per year could reduce to around £8m in 30 years. Whilst this is supposedly ‘new’ money, the Westminster Government is reducing its regional funding to almost nil by 2020.
It was suggested that this £20m/year would be seed money to generate £2.1bn from the private sector. How this would happen was not explained. Private companies would apparently be falling over themselves to be part of, and fund, this new setup.
Spring 2018 Parliament agrees creation of North of Tyne Association and Mayor
Summer 2018 Interim Mayor is appointed by the cabinet of 2 members from each council. This interim Mayor and Cabinet will run things until a Mayor is elected.
May 2019 Elections. The Mayor will initially be in position for 5 years, and then subsequently 4 years in line with local elections.
There would be no change to existing councils’ (Northumberland, North Tyneside,Newcastle) powers.
There would be no/little extra cost, as the money currently going into NECA - the councils in the North East Council Association, which includes Gateshead, Sunderland, South Tyneside and Durham - would be diverted to the North of Tyne. If we don't agree we don't get £600m.
My view - and I think that of the meeting in general - is that there will be little benefit to rural areas north of Morpeth.
i) NHS & Social Care There may be discussions on future funding devolvement as has happened in Manchester
ii) The Borderlands Initiative may be more use to Northumberland but it has been in progress now for over 4 years. Do we know of any benefits? https://www.dgwgo.com/dumfries-galloway-news/borderlands-initiative-progresses
iii) Geoff Paul’s background notes https://uk.linkedin.com/in/geoffpaul
v) For more background see www.northoftynedevolution.com