Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

One-Size-Fits-All Approach Won't Suit Us, Says Leader

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

One-Size-Fits-All Approach Won't Suit Us, Says Leader

Article excerpt

Byline: Kate Proctor Local Government Reporter

LABOUR has major reservations about George Osborne's promise of devolved powers for cities like Newcastle.

The Chancellor pledged to give regional cities similar devolved powers as Manchester.

But Nick Forbes, Labour leader of Newcastle City Council, fears the devolved power deal hinges on region's accepting an elected powerful mayor.

Coun Forbes, who is also vice chair of the Core Cities UK organisation, said cities simply won't accept devolution if it's presented as a "one-size-fits-all" offer replicating what's already been promised to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

The Chancellor has already announced he will hand over PS1bn of powers over transport, housing, planning, policing and the PS6bn public health budget to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority by 2017 if they introduce a directly elected mayor.

And he plans to enshrine this in the Queen's Speech.

But the stumbling block for other major British cities following in their footsteps will be geography, said Coun Forbes.

The Labour leader said the North East's rural make-up and need for skills development, apprenticeships and its unemployment rate means the Manchester offer simply can't be transported to other parts of the country, and other cities shouldn't willingly accept it.

And the North East's closest ally in figuring out a devolution deal will be Leeds and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority as both represent a mix of urban and rural communities.

Coun Forbes said: "The North East Combined Authority is most similar to the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, which includes Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford."

He said the outgoing mayor of Leeds, Keith Wakefield, who stood down in April, had also been cautious of devolution being pegged on accepting a mayor. …

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