North East political leaders have warned County Durham is missing out on vital transport funding compared to neighbouring regions. 

The government has been urged to hand County Durham the same transport funds that Tyne and Wear and Northumberland authorities are set to receive in the upcoming North East devolution deal to avoid regional disparity. 

Labour’s candidate for the new post Kim McGuinness has joined County Durham Labour’s leader cllr Carl Marshall in criticising the current Joint Administration in charge of the local authority for allegedly not securing the same funds. 

The pair say the Liberal Democrat, Conservative and Independent coalition joined the devolution deal ‘too late’ when the money was already allocated to the other six councils. The current deal proposes £147m of extra transport funding. 

Their claims have been disputed by opposition members. 

However, they have urged the government to direct some of the money saved by scrapping HS2 to help out County Durham. 

The Northern Echo: County Durham Labour leader cllr Carl Marshall with Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rachel Reeves and Kim McGuinness (right)County Durham Labour leader cllr Carl Marshall with Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rachel Reeves and Kim McGuinness (right) (Image: Kim McGuinness)

Kim McGuinness, also the current Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “People in County Durham shouldn’t be denied their share of vital transport funds just because the original deal froze them out. It’s time someone spoke up for Durham’s needs.

“First, Durham needs its share of the original transport pot. We can’t have two-tier devolution in the North East.

“Second, we need confirmation from the Government that its next transport fund will include Durham.”

The call comes as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is under pressure to reinvest the HS2 funding into much-needed transport schemes in the north. 

Cllr Carl Marshall added: “The Government froze Durham out of a key transport fund, then it scrapped investment in the North. If the Government wants us to believe there is now more money for transport then ministers should do the honourable thing and put County Durham back on a level playing field. 

“That means looking again at what was on offer and calculating our share. We’re talking about a multi-million-pound share of a transport pot that should be available to us but was not.

“Durham County Council should be showing leadership and challenging the Government over this.”

But council leader Amanda Hopgood hit back at Labour’s claims and once again criticised the party’s initial plan to not get involved with the current devolution deal. The local authority will be included in all local transport funding, she added. 

“Cllr Marshall and County Durham Labour have once again demonstrated their hypocrisy – they actively campaigned against County Durham joining a regional devolution deal, and did all that they could to stop or delay that happening,” responded cllr Hopgood. 

“They are twisting the facts for the sake of political grandstanding and to sow the seeds of division, rather than offering practical suggestions that will allow all partners in the LA7 to work together for the benefit of everyone in the region. 

“It’s disappointing that a mayoral candidate is taking the same approach and more than worrying that she is not aware of the terms of the deal.”

Durham County Council will be the largest local authority in the LA7 deal and will have an influential voice on how funding will be spent across all sectors, the Liberal Democrat councillor added. 

“Ms McGuinness has clearly not made herself familiar with the deal, or she would know that County Durham is indeed included in all future transport funding. 

“Let’s not forget that had it been left to Cllr Marshall, we would never have entered into this historic deal and County Durham would not benefit from any transport money through the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement for the next 30 years.”

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