18794North East Says Yes!, the group calling for debate on the North East Devolution Agreement, has announced the results of a poll it commissioned into the region’s attitudes towards an elected mayor and proposals for devolved powers.

The devolution agreement that the region’s council leaders signed last year commits the North East Combined Authority (NECA), a body that under the terms of the agreement will be chaired by the new directly elected mayor, will form a Commission for Health and Social Care Integration, in partnership with the NHS.

The polling found that.

  • The political issue that matters most to people in the North East is the NHS.
  • The economy is the second most important, followed by education.
  • Fewer than 30% of people would support a North East mayor using planning powers to release more land for housing, falling to just over 20% if the land was within two miles of the respondent’s home.
  • The majority of respondents felt that enough or more than enough houses are being built in the region.
  • Over half of respondents complained of congestion in their area, with over a third being directly affected by it.

Jeremy Middleton, founder of North East Says Yes!, said: “The results of this poll reveal a number of important issues that will almost certainly shape the debate on North East devolution. The number one political issue for people in the North East is the NHS, followed by the economy, and education.

“The people have made it clear that healthcare is the top priority; so the Commission for Health and Social Care Integration is going to be an important issue in the mayoral election. It is therefore vital that mayoral candidates, political parties, and other stakeholders work together to ensure the integration of health and social care yields the best possible results for our region.

“The economy was also shown to be very important too, meaning the success of North East devolution may well be judged on how well the mayor and combined authority use the raft of new financial powers available to them. The new investment fund could be game changing when it comes to tackling unemployment.

“Surprisingly the strategic planning powers granted to the mayor may not seem so important to many people, with only three in ten stating that not enough houses are being built in the region. The joint Employment and Skills board formed by the mayor and the combined authority may be of greater interest, given it can address concerns with the economy and education.”

Polling was conducted by Dipsticks Research, between 14th December and 21st December 2015. The sample size was 504 and included people in all seven local authority areas within the North East Combined Authority.