The first North of Tyne elected mayor will pocket a £65,000-a-year salary, it has been revealed.
Voters will go to the polls on May 2 to elect a figurehead for the new North of Tyne Combined Authority, which was established in November after a £600m devolution deal was agreed with the Government.
It has now emerged that the winning candidate is expected to be paid a £65,000 salary after a panel concluded that the job will have a “significant impact” on the region’s communities and economy, even though the mayor’s powers will be “relatively limited”.
The salary would be at the lower end of the scale compared to other combined authority mayors across England — but would be almost £30,000 more than Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen earns.
Critics have said that the cost of an elected mayor and their office is “just adding to the burden on taxpayers”.
The £65,000 salary has been recommended by a North Tyneside Council independent remuneration panel and is expected to be rubber-stamped at a combined authority cabinet meeting next week.
A report to the cabinet states: “The panel came to the conclusion that the allowance paid to the Mayor of the North of Tyne Combined Authority should be pitched at £65,000 in the light of the high profile ambassadorial element of the role and the significant impact the role will have on the communities and economic growth of the North of Tyne area.
“The panel did not consider it would be appropriate for the allowance to be any higher due to the relatively limited powers the North of Tyne Mayor will have upon their election. This situation may change in future as additional powers are allocated by Central Government to Combined Authority Mayors.”
The highest-paid elected mayor in England is Greater Manchester’s Andy Burnham, who earns £110,000. The West Midlands’ Andy Street is paid £79,000, while Mr Houchen earns just £36,592.
North Tyneside Council’s elected mayor Norma Redfearn earns £64,235, while the leaders of Newcastle and Northumberland councils are granted allowances of £17,550 and £27,000 respectively. Members of Parliament are paid £77,379, while Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird earns £85,000.
The mayor will have the power to put an additional precept on the council tax bills of residents in Newcastle, North Tyneside, and Northumberland, but that is not being implemented this year.
Their salary in 2019/20 will come directly from the cash given to the combined authority by the Government.
Coun Anita Lower, leader of Newcastle’s Liberal Democrat opposition, said: “Any decision this mayor takes can be vetoed by the cabinet, it is very much a figurehead role and there is not much power attached.
“To me it is just adding to the burden on taxpayers. The mayor is also going to have an office and a staff, so the costs will be added to again and I don’t know what value it is going to provide to the local people.”
She added: “The powers are very diluted and I think it is obvious that it has not grabbed the public’s imagination.
“Having an elected mayor is something that we have rejected in recent times and now it has been thrust upon us.”
The only confirmed candidate for May’s mayoral election so far is Liberal Democrat John Appleby.
Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes and Momentum-backed city councillor Jamie Driscoll are battling it out to secure the Labour nomination, while the Conservatives are yet to announce a candidate.
Mayor Redfearn is currently acting as interim mayor of the combined authority.
By Daniel Holland, Local Democracy Reporting Service