• Wed. May 22nd, 2024

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Councillors asked to agree poll arrangements

203Proposals for a poll seeking residents’ views on a North East devolution agreement will be considered by councillors next week.

Members of Durham County Council will be asked to agree arrangements for the poll, including how and when it will be carried out and how it will be funded.

Proposals for the poll, and the reasons behind it, are set out in a report to full council, which meets on Wednesday 9 December at 10am.

If agreed, a postal poll will take place, giving all those registered to vote the opportunity to provide their views on the proposed North East devolution agreement.

The poll would be funded from the council’s revenue contingency budget and the questions and accompanying consultation documents will be drawn up by Durham University.

The proposed devolution agreement was negotiated with Government by the North East Combined Authority, which is made up of the seven councils covering Gateshead, Newcastle, North and South Tyneside, Northumberland, Sunderland and County Durham.

It would see decisions about transport, investment, funding, skills training, business support, housing and strategic planning being made in the North East instead of in London.

It would also bring an additional £30m a year over the next 30 years, which would be pumped into the regional economy through investment, job creation, transport improvement and more targeted skills training.

The proposed devolution agreement which has been signed is conditional on further public consultation, the Government’s spending review, legislation passing through Parliament and agreement by each of the seven councils in the combined authority.

The results of the poll in County Durham will not be binding but they will help to inform the county council’s decision.

Cllr Simon Henig, Leader of Durham County Council, said: “When we agreed, following public consultation, to form part of the combined authority in April 2014, it was on the basis that the key decisions would be made by the combined authority’s leadership board, made up of all seven council leaders and mayor.

“The Government has since made it clear that any devolution agreements will also involve the creation of a regional elected mayor to oversee and be accountable for those decisions.

“In addition there are issues, unique to County Durham, which require consideration – including the fact that our transport, health, police and fire services do not follow the same geographic boundaries as those in other parts of the combined authority area.

“We therefore felt it was important that the people of County Durham were given the opportunity to have their say on this proposed devolution agreement.”

Details of the anticipated cost of running the poll and of the proposed questions, background information for residents and timescales will be presented to full council when they consider the report next week.

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