Sunderland’s council leader says North of Tyne devolution deal will not harm city

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Sunderland City Council’s leader Harry Trueman has stressed there will be no “detriment” to the city as the North of Tyne devolution deal took a crucial step forward.

Millions of pounds and decision making powers are set to be handed to the North East by the Government after council leaders backed the North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA) plan on Thursday (April 26).

The North East Combined Authority (NECA) currently unites seven councils in the North East including Sunderland City, South Tyneside and Durham County Councils.

Almost two years after the region-wide devolution deal was scrapped, NECA councils voted in favour of proposals for Newcastle, Northumberland and North Tyneside to get their own elected mayor.

The decision, subject to Government approval, will see the three North of the Tyne authorities leave NECA and form their own alliance NTCA.

If the Government approves the deal before Parliament breaks for summer, the first meeting of the authority will be held in July when an interim mayor will be appointed.

South of the Tyne councils – Sunderland, South Tyneside and Durham County Council – consented in principle to the North of Tyne Devolution Order.

Sunderland City Council leader Harry Truman stressed the reasons for backing the deal.

Speaking after the meeting at Gateshead Civic Centre, he said: “Both the council and NECA worked on assurances that its creation is not to the detriment of Sunderland and other authorities south of the Tyne.

“It was on that basis that consent in principle was given and Sunderland and NECA will work closely with the North of Tyne continuing to deliver economic growth for all the region.”

While Durham County Council’s leader Simon Henig backed the plans, South Tyneside Council leader Iain Malcolm said he was “deeply disappointed” that the three councils decided to go it alone.

Despite this, he reluctantly supported the deal as he had been assured it was be of no detriment to the area.

The creation of the NTCA will also lead to the creation of a new separate joint committee for transport, alongside what remains of the NECA and the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.

Out of the seven councils of NECA, Gateshead Council was the only authority to abstain from voting with council leader Martin Gannon hitting out at the bureaucracy of so many public bodies.

It had been Gateshead who led the calls to abandon the region-wide deal back in 2016 and after the meeting he described the plans as a “dysfunctional” system of governance.

He added that the region’s “real major functions and powers” such as transport and economic development will bypass the NCTA.

But Newcastle City Council leader, Nick Forbes, stated the deal was “not about creating barriers” and pledged to “work in tandem with all the region”.

After the meeting he added: “For me this is a really significant part in getting our region back on its feet.

“Taking decisions about this region that affect this region and getting powers and money out of Whitehall and having those decisions being made here.”

A spokeswoman for South Tyneside Council added: “We agreed to support the creation of the North of Tyne Combined Authority having secured assurances from Government and the North of Tyne authorities that to do so would not be detrimental to the residents and communities of South Tyneside and the other authorities South of the Tyne.

“We will continue to work with our colleagues across the North East to deliver our regional priorities, including continued economic growth for the region.”

By Chris Binding and Laura Hill

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service