Devolution deal could lead to £500m investment in next five years

The most senior officer of Hartlepool Borough Council says a devolution deal to help the town become more prosperous is reaching an important stage.

Tuesday, 22nd November 2016, 3:31 pm
Updated Tuesday, 29th November 2016, 9:26 am
Coun Bill Dixon (Leader of Darlington Borough Council), Coun Carl Richardson (Dept Leader of Hartlepool Borough Council), Coun Sue Geffrey (Chair of Combined Authority and Leader of Redcar and Cleveland Council), Coun Dave Budd (Mayor of Middlesbrough), and Coun Bob Cook (Leader of Stockton Borough Coucil)

Gill Alexander, chief executive of the authority, says being part of the Tees Valley Combined Authority provides a ‘unique opportunity’ to decide locally how £450 million over the next 30 years can be spent.

She said devolution could see £500 million of investment over the next five years in the Tees Valley.

A special meeting of Hartlepool council will take place tomorrow night to seek approval for an order to be made in Parliament setting out the powers of a new elected mayor of the combined authority.

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Councillors will debate the powers of the new mayor, the role’s constitution and checks and balances that will be put in place.

A public consultation on the issue during the summer found the public are sceptical about the need for a new regional elected mayor.

The Government has said the combined authority must have an elected mayor for devolution to happen.

Ms Alexander said: “If the next stage goes ahead it will mean that a new kind of local decision making will come into place for the first time in recent English history.

“The new deal with the Government will draw down decisions and funding normally decided by ministers and tied up in red tape in Whitehall in relation to transport, housing, job creation and skills into a locally accountable decision making process.”

A six-week consultation that ran in the summer received the highest response from Hartlepool residents after 40,000 leaflets were sent to homes.

Papers for Thursday’s extraordinary meeting at the civic centre at 7pm states: “In broad terms, the public are sceptical about the need for a Mayor, but supportive of devolution, and of the need for strong constitutional protections.

“The local business community has expressed strong support, and is committed to engage positively with this process.”

The constitution sets out that proposals by the mayor would need the support of individual councils and agreement by all on key decisions.

Ms Alexander added the new authority builds on 20 years of working together between local councils to promote economic growth.

She said: “All the existing councils will remain exactly the same. We are at an important stage in shaping the future prosperity of Hartlepool and the Tees Valley as a whole.

“It will be important to make sure that Hartlepool can play its full part in influencing decisions that will impact on the town and enable us to maximise investment into the town.”