Legislation to establish a new North East mayor and ratify a multi-billion pound devolution deal has been laid in Parliament.

Passage through the Houses of Parliament is the long-awaited final hurdle in a years-long negotiation process over the historic devolution deal for Tyne and Wear, Northumberland, and County Durham.

Once formally approved, the stage will be set for an election on May 2 for the first-ever mayor of the North East.

That figurehead will represent around two million people across Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, Gateshead, South Tyneside, Sunderland, and Durham.

The mayor will head a combined authority boasting a raft of new funding and decision-making powers over critical issues like housing and transport, including the ability to take public control over the region’s buses.

Levelling Up minister Jacob Young said putting the deal to Parliament was “an important milestone for communities across the North East as their landmark devolution deal moves one step closer to becoming a reality”.

He added: “The reason we’re so excited for this to get over the line is because a major part of levelling up is giving local people, who know their areas best, the levers and money they need to improve their areas. That’s exactly what this deal does – from Sedgefield to the Scottish Border – providing new decision-making powers, billions in funding and a new mayor who can champion their area on behalf of the two million who live there.”

More than £6 billion worth of funding has already been announced for the 30-year deal, including a £1.4 billion mayoral investment fund and more than £2 billion to be spent on improving transport infrastructure.

Six candidates have already thrown their hats into the ring for the mayoral election – the sitting independent North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll, Labour’s Kim McGuinness, Conservative Guy Renner-Thompson, Liberal Democrat Aidan King, the Green Party’s Andrew Gray, and Reform UK’s Paul Donaghy.

Devolution in the North East has been a contentious subject for years, going back to a referendum in 2004 that saw plans to create a regional assembly overwhelmingly rejected.

Talks between local councils and ministers over establishing a North East mayor began a decade ago and a deal was on the verge of completion in 2016, but collapsed at the eleventh hour when the four councils south of the Tyne pulled out.

Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland then broke away to strike their own devolution deal and establish the North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA), before leaders on either side of the river decided to reunite for this latest pact.

The political leaders of the seven councils and the NTCA said in a joint statement: “It‘s exciting that the devolution deal we secured is now moving through Parliament. It’s an important final step before the formation of our new combined authority.

“As a group of leaders, we are working together already to put plans into place to deliver for our residents, businesses and communities. That collaboration means we will hit the ground running and deliver results for the people of this region.

“The new powers and funding we negotiated will mean important decisions about our region will be made here, in the North East. This is set to be a transformative year for the North East.”