MORE than a third of North-East residents believe local authorities should be given more powers, an influential think tank has found.

A report by Newcastle-based IPPR North found that people had almost twice as much trust in councils than in Parliament.

In the North-East, 40 per cent of those asked thought local authorities should be given more powers – the highest percentage of any English region.

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In contrast, just 14 per cent thought councils should have fewer powers with 34 per cent in favour of the status quo.

The Future of England Survey also found a strong attachment among North-East residents to their community.

Of those surveyed, almost half - 46 per cent - felt very closely attached to their area - again the highest percentage in England.

The study revealed that 64 per cent of people have trust in local councils, compared to just 36 per cent who trust Parliament.

The report argues in places where powers are clear and territorially defined, such as London, there is a greater sense of local authority effectiveness.

Ed Cox, director of IPPR North, said: “The UK government has now offered new powers and institutions to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London, where social and political identification have been strongest, but this should not be the end of the story.

“The Scottish referendum later in the year is already shining a light on the so called English question; central government should now listen and respond to the public appetite for more powers for the city-regions outside London.”

Commenting on the report, Mark Stephenson, North East Chamber of Commerce policy and research manager, said there was a strong case for certain decisions to be taken on a regional level, rather than have them dictated to the region by Whitehall.

“Infrastructure investment is one example where regional knowledge is essential for deciding investment priorities.

“The findings of this IPPR report are a timely reminder that a wider debate is required on the most effective ways of growing our regional economy.”

Coun Paul Watson, chair of the Association of North East Councils, said the region’s local authorities had been promoting a devolution agenda for many years.

“Local authorities have demonstrated time and again that they are the most efficient part of the public sector and have delivered significant change over many years, and in a range of different ways,” he added.

  • The first meeting of the North-East combined authority, which will have powers over transport, skills and economic development across seven councils and nearly a million people from the River Tees to the Scottish border, will be held at County Hall, Durham, at 2.30pm on Tuesday, April 15.