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North-east concedes on elected mayor

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Leaders in the north-east have written to communities secretary Greg Clark telling him they are willing to consider adopting an elected mayor in return for a “radical” devolution deal.

It was anticipated the region would be mentioned in chancellor George Osborne’s Budget. However, local leaders’ resistance to adopting the elected mayor model meant negotiations with the government had stalled and the area was not among those highlighted by the chancellor in his speech to the Commons.

Mr Osborne has repeatedly reiterated that only places willing to adopt an elected mayor will be able to negotiate a devolution deal similar to that agreed with Greater Manchester.

Nick Forbes (Lab), leader of Newcastle City Council and transport lead for the North East Combined Authority, told LGC in May the region’s leaders were “open” to exploring a range of governance options, although he had “significant concerns” about how the elected mayor model would work in such a diverse area of cities, towns and villages.

But now all seven leaders on the combined authority have written to Mr Clark confirming they wish to begin detailed devolution discussions, especially in relation to boosting export-led growth.

In a statement Simon Henig (Lab), chair of the North East Combined Authority and leader of Durham CC, said: “We want to explore with government the scope for a radical devolution deal for the north-east, with substantial devolution of powers and responsibilities.

“In parallel to this, we will consider with government the most appropriate governance structures, including an elected mayor, to oversee those new powers.

“We will approach this process of negotiation with an open mind about where this takes us and are all firmly committed to seizing the opportunity that real devolution presents for our region.”

Businesses, trade unions and other partners are to be consulted before detailed devolution proposals are published in the autumn.

Picture taken by Bryn Pinzgauer

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