Thursday, May 19, 2016

The hole in the middle of the North East

 Journal devolution map May 16

This is the front page of The Journal from earlier this week. It puts into context the ludicrous decision by Labour in Gateshead to walk away from devolution and the North East Combined Authority (NECA). The implications of the decision are enormous. While the rest of the region goes ahead with devolution and an elected mayor, Gateshead is declaring UDI. The People's Republic of Gateshead, under the guidance of the Supreme Leader Comrade Martin Gannon, will stand alone against the Conservatives. Powers over transport, training, housing, planning and potentially health will pass from the Government ministers based in Whitehall to a devolved body in the North East. Except that Gateshead will not benefit at all.

We will have no influence over the devolved powers and budgets that directly affect Gateshead because Gateshead is no longer to be part of the governance system. Gateshead residents, thanks to Labour, will have no vote for who will lead the region. NECA is responsible for the Metro rail system which runs through Gateshead. Up to now, we have been one of the partner authorities running the Metro. Labour in Gateshead are walking away from the set up that has benefited the borough for 40 years.

The devolved settlement allows for control of billions of pounds of public spending currently controlled by the Government and to a lesser extent by Europe. That money will now be channeled through NECA and the elected mayor. Gateshead will not be entitled to a penny of it.

If Labour in Gateshead thought they could lead the rebellion and revolution against the Conservative Government, they have seriously miscalculated. Gateshead Labour may think they are the only ones in step and the rest of the region is out of step but the reality is that of the 7 councils in NECA, 6 have agreed to go forward with the devolution deal. That leaves Gateshead out on her own. This is a disaster of Labour's making in Gateshead, brought about by a group of people who think that kicking opponents is more important than using the opportunities that come your way to improve matters. It is a group that is prepared to make the people of Gateshead, as well as their own previous leader, the collateral damage in their war with the Conservatives.

I am determined to fight Labour's disastrous decision. That was my message when I did interviews today with the BBC Politics Programme, BBC Radio Newcastle and the Chronicle. And I won't rest until Gateshead is at the heart of the region, rather than the Labour created hole in the middle the Gateshead Labour Party has in mind for my home town.

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