Earlier this month, Gateshead Council's all-Labour cabinet debated the recently announced devolution proposals for the North East at a specially convened meeting. Actually, "debated" is probably too strong a word to use. Leader of the Council Martin Gannon said a few words and Cllr John McElroy asked a question about consultation. But all the other Cabinet members remained silent.
Seven years ago the North East looked set to go ahead with a devolution settlement. The seven council leaders accepted it but before long, Gateshead was walking away. For a while, it looked as though Gateshead was going to be the hole in the North East devolution Polo mint. A palace coup by Labour saw the then Gateshead Leader Mick Henry leaving his post and his old rival Martin Gannon seizing the position for himself. The devolution settlement fell apart completely when the Labour run authorities in Sunderland, South Tyneside and Co Durham joined Gateshead is withdrawing from the agreement. Labour divisions and bitter infighting in the North East meant the region went to the back of the queue for devolution and whatever resources go with it. Meanwhile, North Tyneside, Newcastle and Northumberland went for a Mini-Me version of devolution and had the misfortune of seeing Jamie Driscoll elected as the first mayor.
Back to the recent cabinet meeting and I asked what the difference was between the 2016 and 2023 versions of devolution. In my view the current version is a near carbon copy of what was previously on offer. A rather rambling reply came from Martin Gannon who mentioned something about transport funding in 2019. I called it 7 wasted years, a point reported by the local media.
I caught the whole of the meeting on video. Judge for yourself whether what's on offer is what we were previously offered or is something new.
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