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Devolution deals for North East and Tees Valley

Words: Laura Edgar

Chancellor George Osborne has signed devolution deals with Shadow Tees Valley Combined Authority and North East Combined Authority.

Both combined authorities will choose a directly elected mayor in 2017.

Tees Valley, the government said, will receive £15 million a year over the next 30 years, with a new investment fund being set up containing £450 million. The North East region will receive £30 million a year over the next 30 years for a separate investment fund, which should enable the region to compete in international markets.

The deal will see transport, strategic planning, employment and skills powers transferred from Whitehall to each region.

Osborne said the combined authorities have joined the “unstoppable momentum” of devolution, showing that the northern powerhouse is “leading the way”.

Simon Henig, chair of the North East Combined Authority, said: ”With devolved powers and responsibilities over both our urban and rural economies, transport, skills and investment and the creation of the new health commission, this brings new opportunities to make a difference to the lives of local people.

“We will now begin further consultation with our partners, residents, business, trade unions and the voluntary and community sector so that everyone can be part of this process as we move forward.”

Sue Jeffrey, chair of the Shadow Tees Valley Combined Authority and leader of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, said: “I’m pleased that the government has put a devolution deal on the table and if it is agreed by all the Tees Valley councils, there is no doubt it will enable us to do more locally to strengthen our economy and secure a more sustainable future for the Tees Valley.

North East Combined Authority comprises the seven councils which serve County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland.

The Tees Valley Combined Authority consists of Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland and Stockton-on-Tees.

“Over the coming months we will be speaking to local residents and businesses about what the proposals mean for them. But we must not lose sight of the fact that while this is good news, there is still an immediate need to focus on actions to help rectify the shock to our borough and our people which has been caused by the current crisis at Sahaviriya Steel Industries.”

In response to the announcements, Alexandra Jones, chief executive of think tank Centre for Cities, said investment funds included in these deals will enable local leaders to undertake “ambitious” infrastructure projects that will better connect people to jobs, and businesses to customers.

“However, these deals will only go ahead if the government’s Cities and Local Government Bill is successfully passed through Parliament in the next few months. It is vital that MPs from all parties constructively engage with the bill, scrutinising the measures contained in it, but ultimately offering support for the overall aims of the legislation. Failure to do so would mean that the North East and Tees Valley, as well as other places across the country, will miss out on the benefits and opportunities that devolution offers.”

These deals follow Sheffield City Region signing a deal with the chancellor at the beginning of the month (October).