North East England is not Metropolitan
The mini devolution deal for North East (of England) is apparently in danger of running out of time.
In a letter sent to the councils which make up the North East Combined Authority, and which has been seen by the BBC, Mr Javid said: “I reaffirm the government’s commitment to implementing the North East devolution deal in full.
“[However] without an elected mayor the deal cannot progress.
“There is a significant risk now that we will run out of time to implement the deal unless you publish your governance review and scheme, and move forward with the consultation immediately.”
BBC News Website, 26 August 2016 | North East devolution delay ‘risks £900m investment’
Why does an area that includes two conurbations (Newcastle-Gateshead-Tyneside and Sunderland-Washington) and a huge rural area (Northumberland and Durham) need an elected mayor to manage transport, skills and training? The LEPs (remember them?) where set up by the Conservatives to address issues that included skills and training.
Implementation of the plan would see the region receive £30m government funding for the next 30 years as well as new powers on transport, skills and training.
For comparison Funding for Crossrail 1 (just part of just transport investment in London) comes to £14.8 Billion (yes, £30,000,000 vs £14,000,000,000 – a factor of about 466 times). We are talking chicken feed – for the North East. Admittedly £30m for 30 years will help improve say the Tyne & Wear Metro (replacing the 40 year-old rolling stock is estimated to cost £500m). This will be of benefit to some of those who live in the conurbations, but it will do next to nothing for the rural areas – certainly nothing to justify the creation of a mega mayor covering a huge area.
For comparison (to the same scale)
I have my doubts about “Presidential Style” mayors even in metropolitan areas. Focusing on a single person and their manifesto rather than on a committee style of government risks ignoring the needs and wishes of minorities. Electing the mayor by the Alternative Vote will at least ensure that “the least worst” candidate is elected, but in an area like the North East it means that “the mayor” will be metropolitan and almost certainly from one party. (The Northumbria Police Commissioner is metropolitan and Labour)
All this to manage a small budget dealing with (some) transport, and (most) skills and training.
It is not “real” devolution (The North East – in John Prescott’s time – rejected a more extensive “deal” that was still a pig in a poke and not “real devolution”).
It is stupid. It is window dressing. It is not wanted.