Devolution deal row erupts over claims South Tyneside will ‘miss out’ on jobs and investment

The meeting took place at South Shields Town Hall.
The meeting took place at South Shields Town Hall.

A political row has broken out over claims South Tyneside residents will “miss out” in a multi-million pound devolution deal in the North East.

Three North of Tyne councils – Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland – are set to form a North of Tyne Combined Authority.

Coun Jeff Milburn, the lone Conservative on South Tyneside Council.

Coun Jeff Milburn, the lone Conservative on South Tyneside Council.

The deal will unlock a £600million investment fund over 30 years, alongside increased powers to boost investment and jobs.

The move comes almost two years after an original devolution deal was scrapped.

However, South of the Tyne councils – including South Tyneside, Sunderland, Gateshead and Durham County Council – chose to opt out of the alliance.

At a full meeting of South Tyneside Council on October 25, sole Conservative opposition Coun Jeff Milburn said residents in the borough could “miss out”.

South Tyneside Council's Labour Leader Coun Iain Malcolm responded to Coun Milburn's comments.

South Tyneside Council's Labour Leader Coun Iain Malcolm responded to Coun Milburn's comments.

“We must look at the Tees Valley {Combined Authority] where the Conservative mayor Ben Houchen is delivering in this region just little more than one year into his office, with a vision to create a high-growth, low-welfare economy,” he told councillors at South Shields Town Hall.

“The Tees Valley area is much similar to our own and we need to work together, as they have, across the party lines to mirror the success that they’re having through the development of the South Tees Corporation.”

He added devolution is needed to “unlock opportunities” of creating 20,000 jobs over the next 25 years and opening a free port.

The council’s Labour leader Coun Iain Malcolm responded: “If Coun Milburn really wants to help, he should again ask his government to provide support to hard-working families who are having to go to foodbanks in South Tyneside.

“Coun Milburn should be praising South Tyneside Council that in the teeth of austerity – the worst cutbacks we have ever had in local government finance and post-war Britain - this council has managed to keep every single one of our children’s centres and Sure Starts open.

“So far as far as the devolution deal is concerned, the only good thing that the Tees Valley Mayor is good at is taking the credit for the work of Labour council leaders in the Tees Valley.

“A £600million deal over the next 30 years? The seven local authorities in the North East have had billions taken off them over the past 10 years from this government.

“We, sat on the South of the Tyne, will not go for a deal which we don’t think is in the best interests of our residents.”

The North of Tyne Combined Authority is expected to make key strategic decisions for the region – traditionally made in London – which will reflect local people’s needs.

It will also appoint an interim mayor ahead of a mayoral election in summer 2019, with the deal expected to create 10,000 jobs and attract £1billion in private sector investment.

Remaining authorities south of the Tyne – including South Tyneside Council – sit on the North East Combined Authority, which aims to tackle regionwide issues from investment in business to transport.

Caption: Sole opposition councillor on South Tyneside Council, Jeff Milburn

Chris Binding, Local Democracy Reporting Service