Sunderland’s leaders pledge support for devolution deal – but call for more information from Government

The leaders of the North East's councils with chancellor George Osborne as they sign the devolution agreement last year.
The leaders of the North East's councils with chancellor George Osborne as they sign the devolution agreement last year.
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Wearside’s leaders have pledged their support to the multi-billion pound North East Devolution deal – but say more detail is needed as progress is made on the plans.

Sunderland City Council has said the agreement could be the “building block” to taking decisions which affect the region, but says it still wants more information from the Government.

A decision over the deal will now take place in May, following the elections, giving the seven councils in the region more time to decide whether to create a North East Combined Authority with an elected mayor.

Leaders had been due to meet and discuss their decision this week, but Gateshead has said it wants to reject the deal, while Durham County Council has deferred its response.

If it goes ahead, an extra £30million would be given to the North East each year to spend, which Sunderland believes will help its efforts to ensure the workforce has the skills to match its jobs.

At at meeting of council’s cabinet, council leader Paul Watson said devolution could still go ahead without Gateshead, with an assurance given it could be approved if two or more councils sign up, with adjustment of the funding.

He said: “There are some areas which need clarifying. We also want to know what the relationship will be to the mayor and the real minutiae of funding.

“This will allow is to make decisions on their own merit and see decision making move away from Whitehall.”

Councillor John Kelly also said he wanted decision making to move away from London and added: “It’s got to be supported.

“I feel we’ve whinged enough throughout the North East, saying we want to have control over ourselves, and going forward for many years, we have the potential to start really negotiating and taking the opportunities and show our hand in decision making.”

Councillor Michael Mordey said: “It’s a building block and we can say we stand as one as we look to the future.

“In my view, I think we look to the past too often.”