Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Region Lags Behind in Mayor Candidate Choice

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Region Lags Behind in Mayor Candidate Choice

Article excerpt

Byline: Jonathan Walker Political Editor jon.walker@trinitymirror.com @jonwalker121

THE Greater Manchester Labour Party has announced that former Health Secretary Andy Burnham is to be their candidate for regional mayor.

And in Birmingham, Labour activists chose former Culture Minister Sion Simon to be their candidate.

But the Labour Party in the North East has not yet begun the task of picking a candidate - even though all three regions are due to hold an election for a regional mayor at the same time, in May 2017.

And currently there is no firm timetable in place for choosing a North East candidate.

A spokesman said: "The selection for the North East Combined Authority mayor is likely to get under way in the autumn."

While Manchester and Birmingham made their announcements yesterday, Labour is expected to reveal its choice of candidate for the Liverpool regional mayor today.

The slower pace of progress in the North East appears to be a result of delays in confirming the creation of a North East Combined Authority for the region, which will be chaired by a mayor.

A statutory order - a form of legislation - is also required to confirm that the region will have a mayor.

However, the Labour Party in the West Midlands began the process of choosing a candidate before the equivalent legislation was in place.

With nine months to go before the mayoral election takes place, there is likely to be plenty of time for a candidate to be chosen and to launch a campaign.

Other parties have also not yet announced candidates.

Given the level of support for Labour in council and Parliamentary elections in the region, whoever becomes the party's candidate is likely to be seen as the favourite to become mayor - although the eventual winner will, of course, be down entirely to the region's voters.

Newcastle East Labour MP Nick Brown, who has opposed the creation of a mayor, said: "It is the wrong structure for the North East of England.

"Other communities have taken a different view and indeed the structures may work differently for them." He said government plans to change the way local government is funded, including making local areas responsibility for raising their own funding from business rates, was likely to lead to the North East losing money. …

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