Seven North-East local authorities have finally agreed to a devolution deal for the North-East – a move that should bring more money and powers to the region from London.
The deal between the councils of County Durham, Newcastle, Sunderland, Gateshead, Northumberland, North Tyneside and South Tyneside will see a new mayor for the region – similar to the role of Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen – elected by the public in May 2024.
We spoke to local businesses and the local MP to get their views on the deal…
Ian Brown, managing director, Excelpoint
“As a North-East business owner and a local lad, I am passionate about the region, so welcome the announcement of the North-East Devolution Deal.
“It is good to see the vision, focus, and real action taking place backed by a guaranteed investment.
“I believe more power and autonomy are what we need to deliver the right initiatives to level up the North-East.
“At this early stage, there are many questions and concerns – £1.4 billion sounds like a lot of money, but it is guaranteed over 30 years! Will those numbers stack up when considering education, housing, and transport? If we focus on transport alone, it requires considerable investment to meet requirements!
“I am excited about the future and believe we are moving in the right direction. We will accomplish our goals with a clear roadmap and careful consideration of future investments.
“We will achieve success under the direction of an energetic, aspirational, and charismatic leader who involves key stakeholders to ensure we realise the needs of the North-East people.”
Kerina Clark, chair, Aycliffe Business Park
“This is a positive step forward for the North-East with the opportunity to resource the local economy in the most effective way.
“A crucial key to the success of any deal will be making sure the right people are in the right positions to lead and facilitate this.
“Our business community is ambitious, optimistic and collaborative, something that I believe is reflected across the whole of the North-East.
“Unity as a region going forward will give the best foundation for ensuring the benefits of any devolution deal are widespread.”
John Elliott, chairman, Ebac
“I believe devolution is wrong because one country should have one government rather than different governments pulling in different directions. Organisations are run from the top. The people at the top set the policy. Devolving power to someone who may have different beliefs does not make sense. “However, there can be absolutely no doubt that those running the country from Westminster are incompetent. They have been incompetent for as long as I can remember, therefore the problem must be the system we use to elect them.
“If we look at the bests run organisations, none pick their leaders by the population at large voting for them. Imagine the boss of Tesco being selected by their customers voting for them based on a TV interview.
“If the people running the country from Westminster were competent, we would not need devolution.
“It is true that different regions have different needs, but the fundamental policies would be the same, simply adjusted to local conditions, which may also vary within regions.
“Rather than an elected mayor, who could easily have different political views to the government in power, we need an implementer of government policy rather than another politician.”
Paul Howell MP
“The financial benefits of this are obvious for the region, with potential of up to £4.2b in investment including a fund of £1.4 billion over 30 years a years to support inclusive economic growth.
“The opportunity for our region is huge and when you consider how much Ben Houchen, the Conservative mayor for the Tees Valley, has delivered for a much smaller area, then having a similar voice shouting for us, both nationally and on the world stage, can be transformative for investment.
“More broadly, though, I am backing this deal because it brings power closer to people. For too long, my constituents and people all across the North-East have been overlooked, because too many decisions made over their lives are made far away in Westminster.
“I am delighted that the Conservative government is doing what is right by bringing more power and responsibility closer to local towns and villages so as to ensure that people in Newton Aycliffe and the rest of the North-East get the focus they deserve.”
David Osborne, CEO, Roman
“The North-East devolution deal is a great breakthrough for the region as a whole.
“It should bring some real focus and targeting to key infrastructure and development projects. Local knowledge now helping to directly guide local investment.”
Caraline Robinson, manufacturing director, Husqvarna UK
“This is fantastic news for the people of the North-East. At Husqvarna we particularly welcome the opportunity that the deal provides the region, to better improve local skills in line with the needs of local businesses.
“In order to support the growth of Husqvarna in the years to come we need a diverse pool of people locally with good technical skills in areas such as robotics, artificial intelligence, data analysis and engineering, to support our processes of the future, as well as people with supervisory skills, and a sound knowledge of operational excellence.
“We look forward to having input to the Local Skills Improvement Plan.”
Sarah Waddington CBE, chair, Institute of Directors North East (North) branch
“I warmly welcome the news that we finally have the go-ahead for a North East devolution deal.
“Devolution is of paramount importance for our region, not least because of the investment and local decision-making powers it will unlock.
“The move will enable leaders to make decisions that support directors on the ground to do what they do best – driving innovation and prosperity.
“Now we can genuinely make the concept of Levelling Up happen and we will work closely with the new combined authority to ensure the voice of business continues to be heard.”