The Chancellor has been urged to use this week’s Autumn Statement to finally hand the North East a far more radical devolution deal and end Whitehall control of northern towns and cities.
Mayoral candidate Kim McGuinness has called for a dismantling of London-based quangos, a tourism levy and the power for Northern Mayors to kick out failing train firms.
“The North East has been left with the bare minimum when it comes to devolution. We’re just too far North for Whitehall to care. So we need radical, ambitious devolution if we are to hand power back to people in our region. That’s what I’m fighting for.” Kim said.
She added that the budget was a chance to “reset the story of the North East”. In a letter to the Chancellor Kim warned that at present regions such as the North East were being held back with “incremental devolution deals” while the likes of Manchester and London powered ahead.
Kim called for the Chancellor to use his Autumn Statement to position the Government on path for a devolution reset and hand swathes of powers to the new North East Mayoral Combined Authority due to be created in May 2024’s elections.
“We need to start May 2024 at least on the same footing as Manchester and London” Kim said.
The Mayoral candidate said a trailblazer devolution deal was expected for the North East, but to be a success it must include:
· A dedicated North East fund to spend as the region sees fit, without needing civil servants in different departments to sign-off each local decision.
· Devolution of Homes England, Sport England and Arts Council funds to the regions and an end to the days of unelected quangos picking winners and losers in everything from local football clubs to museums and galleries.
· Devolution of Jobcentre powers so the North East can use local knowledge to target employment support.
· Train stations stripped from rail franchisees and handed to mayors and councils, saving ticket stations and helping co-ordinate city-centre investments.
· Real powers to oversee northern rail services, including the power for mayors to come together and kick out failing operators such as Transpennine Express.
· A Tourism Levy so that businesses can work together to raise money for big-scale events.
Kim said: “I’m campaigning for a better North East, where we have real powers to make real, life-changing decisions. Right now we have to go to London to get investment decisions signed off, even under our very limited devolution to date.
“That has to change, and we need to be more ambitious for the region and more radical in our devolution demands.”
She added: “The North East has so far failed to secure the ground-breaking devolution deals offered to Manchester and West Midlands, and has been at the back of the queue for real devolution.
“In the last year of Labour’s regional development agencies the North East had more than £300m to invest in local job creation - we get a fraction of that now.
“The current devolution deal given to the North East has an annual investment fund worth just a small fraction of that historic high.
“We can’t continue pretending second-best is good enough.
“Our region needs someone prepared to fight for it, to be an advocate for all that is great about the North East and to secure the real devolution that will let us control our own destiny. That’s why I’m standing to be mayor.”