THE creation of a new “super authority” stretching from the River Tees to the Scottish Border has moved a step closer, after the councils involved backed the scheme.
The proposal to create a combined authority, known as the North East Leadership Board (Nelb), with powers over economic growth, skills and transport won support from the cabinets of the seven local authorities (LA7) – Durham, Sunderland, Gateshead, Newcastle, North and South Tyneside and Northumberland – at simultaneous meetings held at lunchtime today (Monday, June 24).
Afterwards, LA7 leadership board chair Mick Henry, leader of Gateshead Council, said: “We have completed a comprehensive governance review and concluded that the establishment of a combined authority is the best option for us to formalise our joint working, to speak with one voice and to maximise opportunities for economic growth.
“Working with the (North East) Local Enterprise Partnership (Lep) we want to create the best possible conditions for growth in jobs, investment and living standards.
“We want to make this area an excellent location for business, prioritise and deliver a high quality infrastructure and raise skill levels.”
Durham County Council leader Simon Henig said the Nelb would not be a rebirth of wound-up regional development agency One North East but would allow the councils to speak with one voice.
The proposals will now go to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles. They must be approved by Parliament to take effect. Backers hope the new body will start work next April.
Last week, Stephen Catchpole, managing director of the Tees Valley Unlimited Lep which covers Darlington, Stockton, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and Redcar and Cleveland, said it would consider carefully all options for its future working arrangements and would not rule out a similar model.
A combined authority already exists in Greater Manchester, while West Yorkshire and the Sheffield City Region are working on separate plans. Coun Henig said the Nelb would be transparent, with proper scrutiny arrangements and a constitution.
His deputy, Alan Napier, said it would only work if the Government gave it the correct tools and finance.