Saturday, 17 October 2015

A Mayor for the North East now seems a certainty as devolution deal is reached

This is good news. The full story is here
The key details are:
  • It will see the Government channel a non-ringfenced £30m-a-year into a newly-established North East Investment Fund, while the mayor, to be elected in 2017, can collect an additional £30m-a-year in business rates specifically for infrastructure.
  • Regional leaders will take control of the adult skills budget while a skills board will oversee a comprehensive review post-16 education, skills and employment support system in the North East.
  • The deal has a strong emphasis on skills, transport and rural growth, but also paves the way for further devolution of police and fire services, health and social care.
  • A package of business support measures includes further enterprise zones/the enlargement of existing zones to offer rates cuts for firms.
  • It ties the Government to reviewing the business case for the reinstatement of passenger services on the Blyth and Ashington rail line and for the reinvigoration of the Tyne and Wear Metro, and asks for the North East Combined Authority to, in future, oversee the Northern Rail franchise.
  • A pan-North East transport strategy would bring rail, local highways, metro, buses and ferries, under one system. A bus regulation scheme that spans beyond Tyne and Wear to County Durham and Northumberland will form part of the deal.
  • A commitment to the North East Rural Growth Network, with the Government likely to offer Northumberland National Park more commercial freedom.
  • The new mayor, who combined authority leaders part of a new cabinet structure can veto, will also bid to tackle the housing crisis, with new planning powers and a North East Land Board that can trigger Compulsory Purchase Orders to free up space for new builds. It also allows regional leaders to pool cash from the sale of public sector assets, such as the County Hall site, in Durham City.