Sunderland and South Tyneside 'miss out on millions because they do not have a metro mayor'

Sunderland, County Durham, South Tyneside and Gateshead missed out on millions of pounds in government money because they don’t have a mayor.

Thursday, 30th July 2020, 8:04 am
South Shields town hall and Sunderland Civic Centre

Ministers set aside £400million earlier this year to encourage house building on former industrial sites and other vacant land.

But conditions attached to the cash meant a swathe of the North East couldn’t even apply, while other areas could.

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“There was a [Brownfield Housing Fund], but that was exclusive to mayoral authorities,” said Vince Taylor, economic lead officer at the North East Combined Authority (NECA).

“So that included the North of Tyne [mayoral authority] but didn’t include us and this is the first example we’ve come across of regeneration funding being delivered exclusively to mayoral combined authorities.

“Very often when big funds for regeneration are announced they’re top sliced to mayoral authorities but they’re not exclusive, then everyone else competes for the rest.

“But this is the first example [where that hasn’t happened].”

Taylor was speaking at a meeting of the NECA Leadership Board, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

The North of Tyne Combined Authority was formed in 2018 by Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland, which broke away from NECA after agreeing a devolution deal with the government.

This included electing a mayor for the new organisation, which saw Labour candidate Jamie Driscoll take up the job in 2019.

The North East’s first combined mayoral authority was in Teesside, with Conservative candidate Ben Houchen elected in 2017.

The government’s March budget allocated £400million to ‘pro-development councils and ambitious Mayoral Combined Authorities’ under the terms of the Brownfield Housing Fund.

The remaining NECA leaders, now made up of Sunderland, County Durham, South Tyneside and Gateshead originally opted not to follow the lead of their North of Tyne colleagues.

But earlier in July, bosses signalled they may be ready to reconsider.

Ministers have suggested a possible reward for signing up to the mayoral model could be greater powers over rail, Metro and bus services – as well as extra cash to go with it.

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