Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Government 'Doesn't Know Cost of North East Mayor'

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Government 'Doesn't Know Cost of North East Mayor'

Article excerpt

Byline: Jonathan Walker Political Editor jon.walker@trinitymirror.com

THE Government has no idea how much a North East mayor will cost, Ministers have admitted. They insisted it was up to local councils to explain how much the planned directly-elected mayor for the North East will cost taxpayers.

Ministers suggested a mayor was nothing to do with them even though the Government has also insisted that the region must have one, if it wants to receive the new powers and funding which councils are asking for.

This includes a PS900m investment fund, receiving PS30m a year from the government over the next 30 years.

A deal signed in October by local council leaders and George Osborne, the Chancellor, creates a mayor to oversee the North East Combined Authority, which serves County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland, with an election due to take place in 2017.

But critics say that a mayor is being forced on the region against the wishes of local people, and County Durham is to hold a public vote on whether to continue with the devolution deal or not. North Durham MP Kevan Jones tabled a series of questions in Parliament to try to discover how much a mayor will cost.

He asked how much a mayor would be paid; how much the election will cost, and what additional costs there will be, such as staff employed by the mayor and the cost of their premises.

But Government Minister James Wharton, the Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and MP for Stockton South, replied: "We have made no such estimates as all these costs are matters for the councils concerned which will have considered such matters when giving their provisional agreement to the North East Devolution Deal, which in addition to establishing a North East regional mayor, will create an Investment Fund to support the North East, worth up to PS1. …

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