Have a say on plans for North East devolution

Brought to you by the Morpeth Herald.
Brought to you by the Morpeth Herald.

Northumberland residents are being urged to put forward their views about a proposal to give more powers to a regional body.

The county council has launched a consultation on the devolution plans following an agreement between the Government and the new North East Combined Authority (NECA) in October.

This includes the commissioning of a survey, which gives residents, councillors and staff a chance to have their say on devolution issues, and the council is keen to get as many people as possible to respond.

After the agreement was signed, the NECA said it offers new opportunities for businesses and residents by devolving significant powers, funding and responsibilities to the region.

If the proposal is given final approval, it would change how decisions would be made in the North East in areas such as transport, investment, funding, skills training, business support, housing and strategic planning.

Leader of Northumberland County Council, Grant Davey, said: “We welcome the devolution agreement as it can bring significant benefits to the people of Northumberland.

“We want residents to be fully involved in this key decision and to have their say on how devolution should look and how it should benefit the county.

“Northumberland is a large county with particular rural needs and a devolution deal which allows us to make decisions that are relevant to our residents and geography can only be good.

“It’s an important moment for Northumberland and the whole of the North East and we want to hear what people think about devolution and what they want from it.”

The survey can be found online at www.snapsurveys.com/wh/s.asp?k=144924168682

The closing date for responses is January 15.

Final agreement of the devolution deal remains subject to the Government’s spending review and the legislative process, and it is also conditional upon further public consultation and the agreement of the seven local councils which make up the NECA.

The other six are Durham County Council, Gateshead Council, Newcastle City Council, North Tyneside Council, South Tyneside Council and Sunderland City Council.

If it goes ahead, there would be a new elected mayor for the region, who would be elected for the first time in 2017.

The subject will be discussed at a Northumberland County Council meeting in the New Year.

The NECA says getting devolution will help to enable additional enterprise zones, including sites in market towns, to be established.

It would strengthen integrated health services and increase influence over when and how major transport schemes are programmed and a North East Land Board would be set up to increase the number of new homes in the region and aid economic development.

County council leaders believe it would also help moves to re-open the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne passenger train line, offer more responsibility for rural growth stewardship to better assist its farming and tourism industries and boost its ability to bring more key events to the county.