North East Mayoral Combined AuthorityAuthor DrFrench Licence CC NY-SA 4.0 Source Wikimedia Commons
On 28 Dec 2022, Mr Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and the leaders and mayors of several local authorities in North East England signed an instrument described as the "North East Devolution Deal". That "deal", which does not appear to be legally binding because it is subject to ratification by all partners and the fulfilment of certain statutory requirements, provides for a single authority with a directly elected mayor.
The main terms are as follows:
- "The North East electing a directly elected mayor to provide overall vision and leadership, seek the best value for taxpayer’s money, be directly accountable to the city region’s electorate, and to receive new powers on transport, housing and skills.
- Control of a £48 million per year investment fund over 30 years (£34 million revenue and £14 million capital), to be invested by the North East to drive growth and take forward its priorities over the longer term.
- New powers to improve and better integrate local transport, including the ability to introduce bus franchising, control of appropriate local transport functions e.g., local transport plans, and control of a key route network.
- A city region sustainable transport settlement of up to £563 million capital funding, with £5.7 million resource funding for 2022/23 and further funding to be confirmed in line with other eligible areas. The North East MCA ["mayoral combined authority"] will invest this settlement in a manner which reflects the development of the deal prior to County Durham joining, for the current funding period to 2026/27.
- New powers to better shape local skills provisions to ensure these meet the needs of the local economy. This will include devolution of adult education functions and the core adult education budget, as well as input into the new local skills improvement plans.
- The North East Mayoral Combined Authority will plan and deliver the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) from 2025/26.
- The integration of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership into the North East MCA will ensure there continues to be a strong and independent local business voice which informs local decision making and strategic economic planning. In absorbing the role and functions of the North East LEP, the North East will deliver a number of functions on behalf of central government departments agreed jointly between government and the North East.
- A commitment to explore a local partnership with Great British Railways Transition Team so that the mayor can help shape and improve the local rail offer.
- New powers to drive the regeneration of the area and to build more affordable, more beautiful homes, including compulsory purchase powers and the ability to establish mayoral development corporations.
- To support this, additional £17.4 million for building new homes on brownfield land, subject to sufficient eligible projects for funding being identified.
- £20m of capital funding in this SR period to drive place-based economic regeneration.
- A commitment to developing, in partnership with the Government, an arrangement which ensures close cooperation with the North East’s Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), and a key leadership role for the mayor in local resilience and civil contingency planning, preparation and delivery."
The document is 48 pages long and covers 13 topics including "Levelling up Innovation and Clean Energy", "Digital and Connectivity" and "Arts, Culture, Heritage and Sport."
Para 73 of the Deal promises that:
"Domestic public investment in R&D outside the Greater South East will increase by at least 40% by 2030, and over the spending review period by at least one third, with that additional government funding seeking to leverage at least twice as much private sector investment over the long term to stimulate innovation and productivity growth."
HM government promises to build on existing collaborations between universities and industry such as Procter and Gamble's joint projects with the University of Newcastle. The new MCA will work with local universities to strengthen the region's innovation capacity, to help realize the potential of local innovation assets and the innovation potential of its SME. Funding for infrastructure projects will be provided by the UK Infrastructure Bank, The government and MCA will work together to promote the automotive, offshore engineering and green technology capabilities of the region.
Northeast England is already a hotspot for digital growth. This sector will grow with the laying of new cables to the continent and North America and big public sector projects such as the integration of the tax and benefits computer systems. The MCA will cooperate with the central government in rolling out ultra-fast broadband throughout the region including rural communities. It will promote training in digital skills through a Local Digital Skills Partnership. The MCA will establish a specific Digital Connectivity Fund which will support the smart adoption and scale-up of advanced digital services and technologies thereby strengthening existing initiatives.
HM government will work with the MCA to promote the arts, culture and sports in Northeast England. This will include further investment in developing Hadrian's Wall UNESCO World Heritage Site. Greater public participation in sports at the grassroots level will be encouraged by building on existing initiatives by the FA and football clubs. Efforts will be made to bring major sporting events to the region and to develop it further as a tourist destination. The film industry will also be encouraged.
Activities arising from these initiatives will require specialist advice on protecting and exploiting investment in branding, design, technology and creativity and on enforcing such protection. I have already done a lot of work in the region over the years and I look forward to helping local entrepreneurs, business owners and their angel and private equity investors, their solicitors, patent and trade mark attorneys and other professional advisors in the future.
Anyone wishing to discuss this article is welcome to call me on 020 7404 5252 during business hours or send a message through my contact page at other times.