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Gateshead Labour Reject Devo Deal
At the Gateshead CLP AGM in February, a motion was moved which called upon Labour councillors to oppose the Northeast Combined Authority-Mayoral proposal when the issue came up for a final decision by Gateshead Council. The motion was carried by 41 to one and Gateshead CLP thus declared its overwhelming opposition to the ‘devo deal’. A few days later, the Labour Cabinet on Gateshead Council voted by 41 councillors to 7 to reject the proposal. Irrespective of the agreement of the seven local authorities to delay a final decision until May, giving Osborne a chance to ‘improve’ the deal, members of Gateshead CLP have been told that Gateshead Council will still oppose the deal, will withdraw from the current Combined Authority structures, will negotiate separate agreements regarding transport etc. and will make its own way. This case demonstrates that grassroots pressure, via local party structures, can make a difference. It also represents a small victory for T&W Red Labour/Momentum as opposition to the ‘devo deal’ is one of its campaigning priorities.
Since then Northumberland, Sunderland and Durham have all voted to postpone making a decision.
So far Newcastle upon Tyne is the only council to vote for the devolution plan presently on offer from the Government. Many North East MPs including Newcastle East Labour MP Nick Brown are opposing the proposals.
Mayoral-Combined Authority Proposal
Gateshead CLP is opposed to the Conservatives’ Mayoral-Combined Authority proposal for the Northeast on the basis that there has been insufficient public education and consultation; that it will concentrate power in too few hands; that the Mayoral office would be not be fully accountable; that it will undermine established systems of local democracy; that – together with the Manchester devolution package, it risks the further fragmentation of the national public services including the NHS; and that it could accelerate the further outsourcing and privatization of public services. The branch also notes that the proposed allocation of £30 million for capital spending by the Mayor-Combined Authority across the seven local authority areas is woefully inadequate given the scale of the local authority cuts imposed by the Conservative Government and the other proposed changes to local authority finances (e.g. the localization of business rates).
Gateshead CLP calls for
(1) Labour councillors in Gateshead to oppose this proposal in all Labour Group meetings and to vote against it when the final vote is taken by Gateshead Council.
(2) The leaders of the seven Labour-run authorities in the proposed Mayoral-Combined Authority area to launch an initiative to develop alternative proposals for Northeast devolution that are democratic, fully costed and financed, and which meet the needs of the people of the Northeast.
(3) The Labour leadership nationally to establish a constitutional-devolution review to develop a set of proposals for devolution to the English regions and cities.
Watch this space for more updates.