A CRUNCH meeting to decide the future of the region’s politics has been suspended as councils scrabble to find a deal which will allow them to continue to work together – despite a split in the region.

Council leaders were expected to vote today on a devolution deal which will see the three councils north of the river Tyne; Newcastle, Northumberland and North Tyneside, separate from the current North East Combined Authority (NECA) and take control of a further £600m of spending from Whitehall.

The four councils south of the river Tyne; Gateshead Council, South Tyneside Council, Sunderland City Council and Durham County Council, blocked the previous North East devolution deal in 2016, voting against proposals for a North East-wide Mayor to take control of transport, education and housing spending.

However, despite not being part of the current devolution deal, the councils south of the river are eager to ensure they will not lose out and are trying to iron out deals to keep working together with all seven councils after the separation.

A spokesman for NECA said: “The extraordinary meeting of the NECA Leadership Board previously arranged for today is deferred. This will allow additional time for the seven local authorities to finalise detailed proposals for joint working in the future.”

The meeting has been rescheduled and will be held sometime next week.

Devolution will bring £600m of of extra money to the North of Tyne area, which will also have a directly elected Mayor.

Council leaders north of the Tyne say the deal will bring them more powers and control to improve education, skills and economic growth and regeneration.  

A spokesperson for the three North of Tyne authorities said:  “We look forward to the NECA Leadership Board meeting to consider the changes needed to create a North of Tyne Combined Authority, opening the way for new powers and over £600M of new funding to flow to the region.”

Because of the intertwined nature of the region’s transport systems, a separate public transport body will need to be established for all seven councils to deal with the Metro and bus services.

Earlier this year a consultation report revealed that Durham County Council, South Tyneside Council and Sunderland City Council had concerns about the divide in the region.

A letter from Sunderland City Council leader Cllr Harry Trueman and council chief executive Irene Lucas said: ”It is disappointing that this could not be achieved by a suitable devolution deal being reached for the whole NECA area and without the need for the redrawing of the boundaries, creating two combined authorities in place of one currently.”

While Durham County Council raised concerns about transport funding and South Tyneside Council warned that ‘any proposals to establish a North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA) must be on the explicit basis that it does not lead to any detriment to the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of the residents of South Tyneside'.

North Tyneside Mayor Norma Redfearn said that the door will always be open to the councils south of the river, after the deal is done.