A political row has flared up over devolution as question marks still hang over a possible deal for County Durham.

Labour leaders have called on Durham County Council to reject a "supersized" region-wide devolution deal, and has now launched a county-wide consultation to find out the public's views.

The coalition council, however, hit back saying the opposition's concern was "a bit rich and far too late".

Council leader Councillor Amanda Hopgood said discussions with the government over devolution were expected to resume in the coming weeks, having been halted following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Read more: Opposition leader - 'time to put Durham first' on devolution

The Labour opposition says it fears one mayor covering the "enormous patch" of seven councils in the region would concentrate power in Tyneside.

They have urged the Conservative, Lib Dem and independent joint administration leading Durham County Council to secure a unique county-only deal, a "once-in-a-generation opportunity to become masters of our own destiny".

And they called on the coalition's leaders to "end secrecy around devolution talks and let the public know what deals are being done in their name".

Cllr Carl Marshall, County Durham Labour group leader, said: "While we fully support and endorse councils in Tyne and Wear and Northumberland working on their own deal, I don’t think County Durham should be governed by a mayor sat in Newcastle.

"Durham County Council leadership faces a simple choice – put our county first or back a deal made for Tyneside.

"For me, there is no doubt that County Durham has huge potential to be a powerhouse of the North.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Carl Marshall. Picture: Northern Echo.Cllr Carl Marshall. Picture: Northern Echo. (Image: Northern Echo, Newsquest)

"I think it’s great that Tyne and Wear are in talks to get a proper mayor. But I think a patch that would cover Berwick to Barnard Castle is too big, and a mayor for all of that would inevitably overlook some of us.

"I’m a big advocate of devolution. We need to take power out of the hands of officials in London and bring it back to the North. But a one-size fits all approach will never work. It’s time to put County Durham first."

Durham had been pursuing its own single-county devolution deal, but a leaked letter revealed earlier in September that it has until mid-October to decide whether to join a wider deal with a new North-east mayor, an option which is being kept open by the government.

It was understood the deal could be approved by the new Liz Truss administration and local councils, with the potential to secure £3bn in government funding over 30 years and create more than 17,000 jobs, following months of negotiations for a new mayor-led combined authority.

Read more: The devolution debate that Durham has to resolve

The Labour group says decisions directly affecting Durham should be made locally.

Cllr Marshall said County Durham’s half-million population and growing economy made it well placed to take advantage of a unique deal, and the people deserved a say in their local government's structure and organisation.

In response, Cllr Hopgood said: “Any discussions about devolution were significantly restricted after the resignation of the Prime Minister back in July. Since the sad news of the passing of HM Queen Elizabeth, there have quite rightly been no conversations with the new Secretary of State or his team. We expect those to commence in the next couple of weeks.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Amanda Hopgood. Picture: Northern Echo.Cllr Amanda Hopgood. Picture: Northern Echo.

“The joint administration that is running Durham County Council has said from day one that we will put County Durham first. So, we will explore all options and recommend what we believe is in the best interest of our residents and businesses.

“Quite frankly, hearing Cllr Marshall claim to put our residents and businesses first is a bit rich and far too late.

"Perhaps he should have practised this over the last few years, when instead he was pushing through many key decisions that saw unprecedented public opposition, such as the closure of the DLI Museum and the building of the proposed new headquarters at The Sands.

Read more: Durham undecided on whether to join Tyne & Wear in major £3bn deal

“The council’s leadership is passionate about ensuring that County Durham is a place where people want to live, work and enjoy their time, and where businesses want to invest and grow.

"Our new Inclusive Economic Strategy will be launched later this year, following an extensive consultation, and it will demonstrate exactly that high level of ambition.

"We believe in County Durham and its residents and businesses - we have shown this time and time again over the past 16 months and whatever the outcome is relating to devolution, that remains our focus.”

Labour has launched a consultation to ask people what they want from devolution. Cllr Marshall said: "We also feel it's vital that the people who would be most impacted by devolution – our residents – have their say too."

The survey, which runs for two weeks, is available on the County Durham Labour website.

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