Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Devolution's Top Priority, Survey Shows

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Devolution's Top Priority, Survey Shows

Article excerpt

Byline: Rachel Wearmouth Regional Affairs Reporter rachel.wearmouth@ncjmedia.co.uk

THE vast majority of voters want more powers to be held in the region, our North East Manifesto survey has shown.

Just 12% of you are happy with the status quo and think that Westminster knows what it is doing. Half of people want powers to be held by a combined authority - but you are divided on whether the region needs its own directly-elected mayor, like London has in Boris Johnson.

And 38% of people said a completely independent regional government with powers over taxation and spending is needed.

But, whatever structure which emerges in the coming years, one message is clear - the North East demands more control over its own destiny.

It comes as the North East Combined Authority prepares to open talks with Government over what powers will be held in the region, including spending controls over skills, transport and, crucially, infrastructure - so that projects such as the full dualling of the A1 may be completed.

Simon Henig, chairman of the NECA, said: "Over the last year the public have consistently shown their support for more powers to be determined locally and it is noteworthy that barely one in ten now favour the status quo.

"The devolution debates recently organised by the North East Combined Authority have also demonstrated a high level of interest and backing for more powers and funding to be devolved, and it is important that whoever wins the General Election on 7 May recognises the strength of public support for a genuine and far-reaching package of devolution for the North East."

Labour's Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, has promised the "biggest devolution programme ever" should Ed Miliband's party win the General Election.

A devolution deal was agreed for West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester under the Coalition, but Labour's Hilary Benn, latterly Shadow Communities Minister, said a Government led by his party would see devolution be rolled out across the regions.

He said: "We have got a devolution offer that will work right across the country.

"Authorities must come together and collaborate, and in return, instead of funding streams getting the 'yes or no' from civil servants in London, decisions will be made in the North East. …

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