This month, three councils in the North East came together to create a Combined Authority and start the next phase of our devolution journey.
Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland are, from scratch, putting together what I hope will be a strong voice for our region, a voice we now need more than ever.
The devolution deal we signed has an initial fund worth £600m a year, and a greater say on skills for the people who work here, the homes they will live in and the schools they will educate their children in.
Some will say the deal doesn’t go far enough, but from day one we have been clear, if we want to help people here enjoy access to more and better jobs we will use any tools available to us.
Our £20m a year fund will be used to develop the priorities people here have identified, in digital skills, science and rural growth. They might not look it, but they’re actually the first win for devolution.
For years, the North East, like many regions, faced an all too familiar pattern when it came to crisis or opportunity. We see the problem ahead or the chance to succeed, and then we wait for Government to listen to us and act.
Under devolution, investment will follow our local priorities, on our timescale, not those of Government.
This deal is about taking back control of our region’s destiny and letting people here have a real say.
And, somewhat uniquely for an initial deal, the funds we have available give considerable flexibility to the Mayoral Combined Authority. The investment fund is 100% revenue based, meaning greater freedom to invest.
And that’s because we have always designed this deal to be a tool with which to create jobs for the people of the North of Tyne area.
This is our first devolution deal, the first step. We know there is much more to do, and we have no intention of pausing. People are going to compare the North of Tyne deal to others and ask what this says about Government intentions.
We can’t answer to that. All we can say is that in this and every other devolution deal we aim for, our starting point is that the government should do its best to match our ambition for our area and we look forward to continuing our devolution journey with that in mind.