Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

SATURDAY'S Announcement [...]; COLUMNIST

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

SATURDAY'S Announcement [...]; COLUMNIST

Article excerpt

Byline: NEIL WARWICK

SATURDAY'S announcement that the North East Combined Authority has written to Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark, to actively pursue negotiations for a devolution package is good news for the region.

There has been a perception that Greater Manchester is leading the way in the 'Northern Powerhouse' initiative and there was a danger that the North East could have been left behind.

The reality is that Greater Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Shef-field have agreed to try and implement the Chancellor's wishes for a governance structure based around elected mayors and as a result have been promised the possibility of devolved powers subject, as ever, to negotiating the fine print.

By agreeing to enter into negotiations the North East has not committed to do any more or any less than the other northern cities and authorities.

However, it is now a question of timing. By agreeing to the negotiations early, Greater Manchester could have devolved powers as soon as 2017. If the North East delays over its own negotiations devolved powers may not be granted until 2018 or worse still as late as 2019.

The real danger therefore is that a potential delay in the granting of devolved powers could inadvertently create an imbalance within the Northern Powerhouse initiative at the very time there is a need for unity.

The North East, both the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and Tees Valley Unlimited, cannot afford by 2017 to be surrounded by Scotland, Yorkshire and the North West who by then would all have some form of devolved powers, and consequently not be able to compete on a level playing field.

There will be a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU by 2017. Whatever the outcome, there will be both opportunities and threats for regional economies. If the UK remains part of the EU there will be inward investment and export opportunities for businesses. Regions with devolved powers will be far better placed to take advantage of the opportunities quickly.

Equally if the UK was to come out of the EU, trading relationships with the remaining EU Member States would have to be hastily renegotiated, and regions with devolved powers would be in a better position to take advantage of the situation. …

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