Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

The Only Question for the North East Is, Do We Want Devolution Enough to Appoint an Elected Major? IF There Were to Be a Directly Elected Mayor, Here Are Some of the People Who Might Throw Their Hat into the Ring:

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

The Only Question for the North East Is, Do We Want Devolution Enough to Appoint an Elected Major? IF There Were to Be a Directly Elected Mayor, Here Are Some of the People Who Might Throw Their Hat into the Ring:

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Kelly Reporter mike.kelly@ncjmedia.co.uk

CHANCELLOR George Osborne has said having a directly elected Mayor is crucial to a region having more powers.

It proved a sticking point for the North East Combined Authority which felt Mr Osborne's insistence on the post was an imposition on the people of the region who should be consulted first. The case against an elected - or 'metro' - mayor is based largely on two things. First, whether the North East public has an appetite for one.

While there is an elected mayor in Middlesbrough, the people of Hartlepool ditched theirs in 2013.

North Tyneside has an elected Mayor but the rest of the region has consistently rejected the notion. Secondly, the devolution of powers in the Chancellor's Northern Powerhouse plan placed significant focus on boosting cities but NECA, made up of the region's seven local authorities, covers a vast area which is both rural and urban.

The role proposed would represent the cities of Newcastle and Sunderland, as well as the counties of Northumberland and County Durham - an area stretching from Berwick to Newton Aycliffe. However as Ross Smith, director of policy at the North East Chamber of Commerce bluntly puts it: "The case around elected mayors is an interesting debate, but at this stage is an academic rather than a policy debate.

"The government has made it clear that an elected mayor is very much part of any potential deal.

"Therefore, the only question for the North East is, do we want devolution enough to appoint an elected major? There does not seem to be any other alternative and it has been made clear that if our region does not go down this route we'll be stuck in a status quo."

Meanwhile IPPR North said it was in favour of these so-called metro mayors but was concerned about one being imposed as a pre-cursor to further devolution.

It pointed out the Government gave a devolution deal to Cornwall without an elected mayor but it was prevented from gaining further planning powers on their refusal to budge on the issue.

An IPPR North spokesperson said: "A metromayor for the North East could be a significant figure on the national stage, wielding 'soft power' and able to give voice to the interests of the city-region in public debate and in Whitehall. …

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