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Devolution is essential for long term growth

Over the last month the debate on devolution has featured in many of my discussions with business leaders and politicians. The question around whether devolution is right for the North East is one I can answer quickly and one that many agree on – absolutely.

However recent conversations and press articles have focussed more on the details of the devolution offer including the proposition for an Elected Mayor. The Chancellor has promised that Devolution Bill will create a “revolution in the way we govern England” – whether the offer of Devolution truly meets this ambitious statement is still to be seen, but for the North East and its people it is an opportunity that cannot be missed.

Over the last two years we have developed a strategy for long term and sustainable economic growth. Through a detailed and evidence based understanding the North East’s economic challenges, set out in our Independent Economic Review led by Lord Andrew Adonis, we have written a strategy that will take the North East economy to where it needs to be – creating more and better jobs for everyone.

We have already secured a substantial investment through the North East Growth Deal to deliver this plan for growth and with the future calls from the European Structural and Investment Funds we can support more programmes and projects that will provide tangible and sustainable solutions to our employability, inclusion and skills, business support and access to finance and innovation challenges.

However the opportunity that devolution presents is one that can take the North East beyond just reaching national levels but to truly excel.

Our proposals for North East devolution must be ambitious and move beyond what we have already committed to deliver through our economic plan. And we need to be united and ahead of the game in our negotiations with Government.

We are in a strong position nationally to be one of the first regions to take advantage and maximise the offer of devolution, with a clear proposal ready to take to Government.

Government have been very clear on their position – intrinsic to the offer of Devolution is an Elected Mayor.

An Elected Mayor will not only provide a single point of contact that creates a united leadership and visible accountability locally, it will enable the North East to challenge and negotiate nationally with a stronger voice in the Northern Powerhouse and for greater autonomy and share in future funding. A devolution deal for the North East means embracing this opportunity and uniting behind the call for an Elected Mayor. Without it there is no devolution and the North East is at risk of not only appearing divided but being left behind.

The North East has a unique economy – it is important that it takes control of its future and becomes more accountable for its actions. The future of real ambitious economic success and long term change is through devolution.

Paul Woolston