Residents eligible to vote in County Durham will be asked for their views on the North East’s devolution agreement via a postal vote next month (January 2016).
A pack, including information on the agreement from Government to the North East Combined Authority, and questions, both prepared by Durham University, together with detail on how to take part will be sent to all people registered to vote in the county.
The approach was agreed by Durham County Council members at a meeting of Full Council today (December 9) and will be funded from the council’s revenue contingency budget.
The proposed devolution agreement was negotiated with Government by the North East Combined Authority, which is made up of the seven councils covering Gateshead, Newcastle, North and South Tyneside, Northumberland, Sunderland and County Durham.
It would see decisions about transport, investment, funding, skills training, business support, housing and strategic planning being made in the North East instead of in London.
It would also bring an additional £30m a year over the next 30 years, which would be pumped into the regional economy through investment, job creation, transport improvement and more targeted skills training.
The proposed devolution agreement which has been signed is conditional on further public consultation, the Government’s spending review, legislation passing through Parliament and agreement by each of the seven councils in the Combined Authority.
The results of the poll in County Durham will not be binding but they will help to inform the county council’s decision.
Cllr Simon Henig (pictured above), leader of Durham County Council, said: “Consultation with residents is really important to us. It’s vital we understand how decisions affect people and the devolution agreement contains some really big changes for the region.
“It includes decisions about transport, investment, funding, skills training, business support, housing and strategic planning being made here in the region.
“However, the Government has since made it clear that any devolution agreements will also involve the creation of a regional elected mayor to oversee and be accountable for those decisions.
“I would therefore encourage everyone who is eligible to vote in the county to let us know what they think via this poll once they’ve received the information pack from mid-January.
“Responses can be made via post or online, with feedback brought to our Full Council meeting at the end of February.”
The questions devised by experts at Durham University are:
The paper agreed by county council members today can be viewed here http://democracy.durham.gov.uk/documents/s56870/NECA%20Referendum.pdf