October was bookended by the announcement of two significant city devolution deals. Sheffield’s was finalised at the beginning of the month. The acceptance of the principle of an elected mayor for the City Region has meant that this latest settlement is far more potent than the initial deal signed off in December 2014, with a £900m investment fund and devolved powers for planning transport and skills.
It was the turn of the North East to make their announcement at the close of the month. Again, key to progressing the deal was the acceptance of the case for an elected Mayor. Headlines in the deal include the creation of a £1.5 billion investment fund together with the option to raise up to a further £30 million a year through a business rate supplement. On transport and planning, a consolidated transport fund has been announced. Strategic planning powers are also to be devolved (although the authors of the deal are at pains to stress that this will result in a development framework for the North East and not a regional spatial strategy – the language is clearly important!). In line with the Manchester deal, the Mayor will enjoy CPO powers which can only be exercised with the consent of the local authority in which the CPO will be promoted.
With deals emerging across the North the question is, what can be done to ensure that these newly empowered City Regions work together to rebalance the economy rather than competing against each other - might a Great North Plan assist?