Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Elected Officials 'Frozen Out' by NELEP, Say MPs

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Elected Officials 'Frozen Out' by NELEP, Say MPs

Article excerpt

Byline: Rachel Wearmouth Regional Affairs Reporter

LABOUR figures angry at a proposed PS150,000 salary for a new job creation chief say a business-led partnership is attempting to "ride roughshod" over elected officials.

MPs have come out in defence of the North East Combined Authority (NECA) as it opposes the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP) hiring a trade commissioner for their new chief executive on a wage PS7,500 higher than the Prime Minister's.

The NELEP says the money is market rate for the high-calibre candidate and have said its members are working with councillors. But Ian Mearns and Kevan Jones, MP for Gateshead and North Durham respectively, say elected representatives are being "frozen out" of decisions by the NELEP, which was set up by the Coalition to stimulate the region's ailing economy.

The spat between public and private sector comes ahead of a crunch meeting today between the NELEP board and NECA to decide on the chief executive appointment.

The Journal understands an offer has been made for the replacement of former chief executive Ed Twiddy after the NELEP has been without a lead officer for some eight months.

Mr Jones said it is unreasonable for the NELEP to pay such a salary for the head of a relatively small organisation when the unemployment rate remains high.

"The council leaders feel as though they are being frozen out by the business side of the NELEP and this latest proposal to give the chief executive PS150,000 is ridiculous," he said. "They don't meet with us, and when we challenge them on something they just say they will do it anyway.

"I sympathise with the frustration of the council leaders that this unelected body can ride roughshod over the decisions of democratically-elected council leaders and members of parliament.

"When the council leaders disagree with them then they scream that they are anti-business, but they are not. They are accountable to the public and have to be able to say why public money has been spent. …

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