A new North East combined authority will provide a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to support left behind neighbourhoods.

Members of Durham County Council’s cabinet praised plans to create the new mayoral authority, which would see millions of pounds invested in the region. 

The local authority, along with those in Tyne and Wear and Northumberland, is in the final stages of signing off on a historic agreement that will bring a raft of new decision-making powers. 

And at a meeting on Tuesday, councillors agreed to progress with the plans to create the new LA7 mayor. 

The proposed North East Mayoral Combined Authority is due to come into effect on May 7, 2024 – with the existing North of Tyne and non-mayoral North East Combined Authority being abolished.

The initial £4.2bn investment package within the 30-year deal includes:

  • An investment fund of £1.4bn, or £48m a year, to support economic growth and regeneration;
  • Around £60m a year for adult education and skills;
  • A £900m package of transport investment;
  • £69m of investment in housing and regeneration.

It is hoped that the deal will create 24,000 new jobs and unlock an additional £5bn in private sector investment. 

In the latest meeting on the deal, Cllr Alan Shield told members it would “[provide] a huge investment fund with potential for significant leverage to grow our economy, creating opportunities for our residents and communities. 

“This could be considered a once in a lifetime opportunity to provide further support for left behind neighbourhoods across the north east and County Durham.”

The funding promised will help turn County Durham into an ‘economic powerhouse’, Liberal Democrat councillor Mark Wilkes said. But while the initial investment has been welcomed, councillors asked for further support once the new mayor is created. 

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Cllr Wilkes added: “We now need this and all future governments to devolve even more powers, and critically, more funding to us so that the new mayoral combined authority can achieve what we all know is needed for our county and region.”

A public consultation earlier this year showed majority support for the deal in each of the seven areas. However, the plans were opposed by County Durham Labour who favoured a county deal. 

The Joint Administration in charge of Durham County Council said it would lead to less funding and less powers in Westminster.