Fears over plans for devolution in the North East

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Concerns have been raised by senior councillors in South Tyneside over a claimed lack of public consultation over the planned devolution of council powers.

The fears have emerged as members of the council’s Labour group are due to meet tonight to discuss the North East’s devolution proposals ahead of a final decision being made on whether to go ahead, later this month.

We have raised this behind closed doors of our concerns of going for devolution and lack of public consultation.

Senior councillor

If given the green light, the North East Combined Authority, made up of representatives from all seven of the region’s councils – South Tyneside, Gateshead, Newcastle, Sunderland, North Tyneside, Northumberland and Durham – will see the transfer of powers in areas including housing, business support, employment and skills from central government to the North East.

A directly elected Mayor could also be put in place and, with the support of the business community, be able to raise business rates to help fund new infrastructure.

However, some councillors are sceptical that devolution would benefit South Tyneside and say there needs to be more public consultation.

One senior councillor, who did not wish to be named, said: “In a few weeks we have to say yes or no to a formal proposal for devolution but there has been no real public consultation on this. It is going to be the leader of the council and the executive cabinet who will be making the decision.”

Another councillor added: “The way this has been carried out is unfair to the people of South Tyneside.”

A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “At the meeting of the NECA Leadership Board last November, leaders agreed how they would consult with local residents and stakeholders on the proposed NECA devolution plans. NECA, and each of the constituent local authorities have undertaken consultation across the whole of the region in order to give local communities, businesses and partners the opportunity to join the discussion and give their views on whether devolution is the right thing to do.

“In South Tyneside, the issue of devolution was then discussed at all Community Area Forum earlier this year, and discussions have taken place with key businesses and Trade Union representatives. Furthermore, a devolution consultation page on the council’s website www.southtyneside.gov.uk/article/29847/devolution has allowed residents to express their views directly.”