A NEW twist within the North East’s devolution saga may see County Durham push for its personal elected mayor fairly than linking up with neighbours.
There have been hopes that seven native councils both facet of the Tyne may reunite beneath a brand new mayor protecting Newcastle, Northumberland, North Tyneside, Sunderland, South Tyneside, Gateshead, and County Durham – with a deal doubtlessly unlocking £500m of presidency money for desperately-needed transport upgrades.
However prime minister Boris Johnson introduced final week that particular person counties may now be given the possibility to elect their very own mayor beneath the federal government’s ‘Levelling Up’ plans, fairly than having powers and funding devolved to figureheads protecting bigger metropolis areas.
Durham council chief Amanda Hopgood says her authority “will probably be taking a look at the entire choices, together with a county mayor” as its new political management decides which path to pursue.
Coun Hopgood, a Liberal Democrat, took over as council chief in Might as Labour misplaced management of County Durham for the primary time in 100 years, with the authority now run by a coalition of Lib Dems, Conservatives, and independents.
The prospect of going it alone with an elected mayor as a substitute of becoming a member of a bigger mixed authority has additionally been touted by one of many space’s MPs this week.
Conservative Richard Holden wrote that “virtually everybody” in County Durham opposed “being lumped in with six different native authorities” and that the concept of the huge county having its personal mayor would attraction.
In a weblog for Conservative Residence, the North West Durham MP expressed fears that a large mixed authority protecting all over the place from Berwick to Barnard Fort may have a “slim deal with the metropolitan centre of Tyne and Put on”.
Earlier talks over a devolution deal to create a mayoral authority protecting the seven council areas broke down in 2016 after a cut up within the area’s Labour-dominated institution.
Newcastle, North Tyneside, and Northumberland then broke away to type their very own North of Tyne Mixed Authority, for which Labour’s Jamie Driscoll was elected mayor in 2019.
Requested in regards to the prospect of selecting a county mayor over a mixed authority, Coun Hopgood advised the Native Democracy Reporting Service: “We’re a brand new administration and now we have to debate it. We’re ranging from scratch and we will probably be taking a look at the entire choices, together with a county mayor.
“There may be nothing that’s not on the desk for dialogue.
“We have to work in consensus and I imagine that’s the method ahead, everybody wants to grasp what’s concerned.”
County Durham additionally borders a number of council areas which might be a part of the Tees Valley Mixed Authority, the place Tory Ben Houchen is mayor.
She was talking after a North East Mixed Authority assembly on Tuesday, at which Sunderland Council chief Graeme Miller stated that the ‘LA7’ councils “hope to get to a place the place we will type joint proposals on our ask from authorities in relation to devolved funding and powers”.
There was confusion earlier this month after Mr Driscoll claimed in a Parliamentary committee that there was a devolution deal “on the desk” for the seven authorities to reunite.
Leaders south of the Tyne denied that, with Coun Miller saying any settlement was “a way off” and Coun Hopgood saying her administration was “not conscious of the small print of any such deal and, as such, Mr Driscoll shouldn’t be talking on behalf of County Durham.”
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