Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Campaign Starts to Shift the Tectonic Plates in Whitehall; Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Campaign Starts to Shift the Tectonic Plates in Whitehall; Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Linford

WITH just over a week having passed since the launch of the NEvolution campaign for new powers and funding for the North East, the revelation that deputy premier Nick Clegg is to chair a Cabinet committee on the subject has to be seen as something of a victory.

Cynics might argue that having something looked into by a Cabinet committee does not necessarily equate to action, and can just as easily be a means of kicking an issue into the long grass.

They might also point out that the Deputy Prime Minister has something of a reverse Midas touch when it comes to implementing political reforms which he has personally championed.

His two big constitutional hobby horses of this Parliament, proportional representation and House of Lords reform, have both been crushed under the weight of Tory opposition, and given prevailing Tory attitudes to so-called regionalism, there is every chance the same could happen again.

That said, however, the setting up of the new Local Growth Committee does prove one thing - that the campaign launched last week by this newspaper and others in the region has already succeeded in making itself heard.

And the fact that other Coalition big beasts such as Chancellor George Osborne, Business Secretary Vince Cable and Education Secretary Michael Gove are all taking part is surely a further sign that the issue is now being taken seriously.

Significant disagreements remain to be ironed out. Lord Heseltine, the arch-advocate of devolved regional funding, warned this week that handing over only a small amount of cash in this month's spending review would be seen as a "slap in the face" for the regions.

But with the issue now being dealt with at the most senior levels of government, whatever the Chancellor announces in the June 26 spending review is unlikely now to be the end of the story.

Alongside the news of the setting up of the committee this week came two reminders of why it, and the NEvolution campaign, are so necessary. …

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