County Durham intends to go into a region-wide devolution deal with other areas in the North East, it was announced today.

Durham County Council has just confirmed it has agreed "in principle" to join an "LA7" deal with six other local authorities.

It had been pursuing its own single-county devolution deal, but a leaked letter revealed last month that the option was being kept open for it to join a wider deal.

The council had until mid-October to decide whether to join a region-wide deal with a new North East mayor.

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

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.

Durham County Council leader Councillor Amanda Hopgood, on behalf of the ruling Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Independent joint administration, announced the council's decision this morning.

She said: “As requested by the Government, we have sent a letter to the Secretary of State to confirm that in principle, we have decided to join the LA6 deal along with the other local authorities in the North East, and agree an LA7 devolution arrangement.

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

"We now look forward to working with colleagues to deliver a devolution deal that will benefit residents throughout the region.

"This approach makes good political and practical sense, and the regional model is also a route that has the backing of business.

"A wider deal will benefit from adding volume to a louder North East voice.

"There will now be further discussions with colleagues in the North East and government.”

Read more: Another row breaks out over plan for County Durham £3bn devolution deal

The potential deal had sparked a political row, with the Labour opposition claiming there was public support for a Durham-only devolution deal.

Labour conducted its own survey and said 84% of respondents backed a Durham-only deal and 16% backing a  North East "supersized" or "mega-devolved" authority "governed by a Tyneside based mayor".

County Durham Labour leader Cllr Carl Marshall said: “We’re delighted people backed Labour calls for a county devolution deal – as the country lurches from one crisis to another under this hapless government, the time has come to take power from the manicured fingers of Tory ministers and put in the working hands of County Durham residents.

“Labour is on record as favouring the once-in-a-generation opportunity a county-only deal, which will make us the masters of our own destiny. Our residents clearly feel likewise, with over eight out of ten respondents in favour of it.

“Time and again the coalition has refused to communicate with people in County Durham. Labour is demanding they listen to what residents want and for once put their needs ahead of the political ambitions of the Tory and LibDem members running the county council.”

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

He said coalition heads "must end secrecy around current talks and tell the public what deals are being done in their name" after 525 of 623 respondents to the Labour survey wanted a county deal.

Labour deputy leader Cllr Rob Crute said: “While we recognise the many benefits of going it alone in a county deal, we remain committed to regional unity, and we want to be a good neighbour to the combined councils in Tyne and Wear and Northumberland.

“But the views of residents must be heard. Devolution will help address years of ideological austerity, cuts to bus and public transport networks, help our residents cope in a cost of living crisis and offer energy costs support. In short, a county deal puts County Durham first.”

The Northern Echo: Sedgefield MP Paul Howell.Sedgefield MP Paul Howell. (Image: Northern Echo)

Conservative Sedgefield MP Paul Howell had said previously in response to Labour's comments before the survey and the decision: "This has long been the stated position of all Durham MPs and the council as its preferred option.

"The county has the scale and desire for such an outcome. It is not something new that Labour are initiating.

"As always though it depends on the details of the deals to be chosen from and it is for the council to view these and decide what is best for the residents and not for any political interests and I have every confidence they will do this.

"For my part I will do all I can to encourage a Durham deal as the outcome."

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