COUNTY Durham will be given greater decision-making powers on local issues, the government has announced as one of its leading new policies as part of its flagship levelling up agenda.

Durham County Council will be invited to agree a new county deal as part of plans to provide more power to the region in a “devolution revolution” with the offer of a London-style deal for any area of England that wants one.

It will be invited to agree a Mayoral Combined Authority deal at a later date, meaning the county could have a metro mayor.

Read more: Leaders respond to devolution in County Durham and North East

The North East authority is one of nine initially outlined to benefit from the new plans, and could see specified powers transferred from central government to local level.

This could include anything from increasing economic productivity, improving local services, or undertaking new infrastructure projects.

The Northern Echo understands the authority hopes to strengthen powers over employment, but is not interested in having a directly-elected mayor.

Read more: Northern Powerhouse Partnership calls for North East devolution

An expanded Mayoral Combined Authority deal for the North East is also planned as well as the creation of a similar deal for North Yorkshire and York.

The Tees Valley and North of Tyne combined authorities currently cater for large areas of the North East but County Durham, Gateshead, Sunderland and South Tyneside do not have access to devolved powers.

The move comes after the success of local leadership mayors like Ben Houchen in the Tees Valley, and the government now wants to replicate this success across England.

The Northern Echo: Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen. Picture: DOUG MOODYPrime Minister Boris Johnson and Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen. Picture: DOUG MOODY

Read more: Government to announce 'levelling up' plan this week - but is there anything new?

Additionally, local leaders will receive a share of the £2.6 billion UK Shared Prosperity Fund, with investments set to regenerate communities, boost people’s skills, and support local businesses.

The promise to “level up” forgotten and deprived communities was a key theme of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s 2019 general election campaign which saw the Tories make huge gains in Labour’s previously impregnable “red wall” heartlands.

The White Paper – revealed by secretary of state Michael Gove later today - will set out 12 wide-ranging national “missions to be achieved by 2030 to be enshrined in a a flagship Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.

Labour however dismissed the plan as “more slogans” with “few new ideas”.

The first “mission” is to improve pay, employment, and productivity across the board while narrowing the disparities between the best and worst performing areas.

Others include bringing the rest of the country’s local public transport systems much closer to London standards and ensuring most of the country has access to 5G broadband.

Read more: The 7 North East and North Yorkshire education 'cold spots'

Up to seven North East counties and towns will benefit from a Government plan to pump millions of pounds into education “cold spots”.

Areas in the region where education outcomes are weakest will receive targeted for support, with teachers offered a “levelling-up premium” to improve retention.

There are also commitments to ensure hundreds of thousands more people get high quality skills training every year while gross disparities in healthy life expectancy is narrowed.

The paper promises to halve the number of poor-quality rented homes, rejuvenate the most run down town centres and deliver a significant decrease in serious crime in the most blighted areas.

Mr Johnson said it was the “most comprehensive, ambitious plan” of its kind that the country had ever seen.

“From day one, the defining mission of this Government has been to level up this country, to break the link between geography and destiny so that no matter where you live you have access to the same opportunities,” he said.

“The challenges we face have been embedded over generations and cannot be dug out overnight, but this White Paper is the next crucial step.”

The Northern Echo: Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove visited Darlington last yearLevelling Up secretary Michael Gove visited Darlington last year

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove, the architect of the plan who will be responsible for driving through the changes, said it would end an “historic injustice”.

For decades, too many communities have been overlooked and undervalued. As some areas have flourished, others have been left in a cycle of decline. The UK has been like a jet firing on only one engine,” he said.

“This will not be an easy task, and it won’t happen overnight, but our 12 new national levelling up missions will drive real change in towns and cities across the UK, so that where you live will no longer determine how far you can go.”

But Labour’s, shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy said the plan fell far short of what the country needed.

“Ministers have had two-and-a-half years to get this right and all we been given is more slogans and strategies, with few new ideas,” she said.

“Boris Johnson’s answer to our communities calling for change is to shuffle the deckchairs – new government structures, recycled pots of money and a small refund on the money this Government have taken from us.

“This is not what we were promised. We deserve far more ambition this.”

The 12 Missions to Level Up the UK

1. By 2030, pay, employment and productivity will have risen in every area of the UK, with each containing a globally competitive city, with the gap between the top performing and other areas closing.

2. 2. By 2030, domestic public investment in R&D outside the Greater South East will increase by at least 40% and at least one third over the Spending Review period, with that additional government funding seeking to leverage at least twice as much private sector investment over the long term to stimulate innovation and productivity growth.

3. By 2030, local public transport connectivity across the country will be significantly closer to the standards of London, with improved services, simpler fares and integrated ticketing.

4. By 2030, the UK will have nationwide gigabit-capable broadband and 4G coverage, with 5G coverage for the majority of the population.

5. By 2030, the number of primary school children achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths will have significantly increased. In England, this will mean 90% of children will achieve the expected standard, and the percentage of children meeting the expected standard in the worst performing areas will have increased by over a third.

6. By 2030, the number of people successfully completing high-quality skills training will have significantly increased in every area of the UK. In England, this will lead to 200,000 more people successfully completing high-quality skills training annually, driven by 80,000 more people completing courses in the lowest skilled areas.

7. By 2030, the gap in Healthy Life Expectancy (HLE) between local areas where it is highest and lowest will have narrowed, and by 2035 HLE will rise by 5 years.

8. By 2030, well-being will have improved in every area of the UK, with the gap between top performing and other areas closing.

9. By 2030, pride in place, such as people's satisfaction with their town centre and engagement in local culture and community, will have risen in every area of the UK, with the gap between the top performing and other areas closing.

10. By 2030, renters will have a secure path to ownership with the number of first-time buyers increasing in all areas; and the government’s ambition is for the number of non-decent rented homes to have fallen by 50%, with the biggest improvements in the lowest performing areas.

11. By 2030, homicide, serious violence, and neighbourhood crime will have fallen, focused on the worst-affected areas.

12. By 2030, every part of England that wants one will have a devolution deal with powers at or approaching the highest level of devolution and a simplified, long-term funding settlement.


Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated County Durham Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on or contact 01325 505054