Tyne & Wear

North of Tyne Combined Authority: What powers will the new mayor have?

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Media captionNorth of Tyne Combined Authority vote takes place

Voting for the mayor of the new North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA) takes place on Thursday.

The government said the £650m devolution deal would enable investment to be targeted locally where it was most needed.

The new mayor will work with council leaders on issues such as economic development, education and planning.

But what what kind of organisation will he - and all five candidates are men - be heading?

What is the combined authority?

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The authority covers three councils north of the River Tyne

The new authority covers the Northumberland, Newcastle and North Tyneside council areas.

It is the ninth to be created under the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009, which allows a group of councils to collaborate.

The NTCA deal has unlocked an investment fund of £20m a year over 30 years to "help grow the local economy so everyone can feel the benefit".

Its focus will be on skills and adult education, employment, investment and business support.

However, it does not have any control over transport or housing.

Combined authorities do not all have the same responsibilities as they were each created as bespoke or tailored packages to deal with differing local circumstances.

What powers will the mayor have?

The directly-elected mayor will work with the three council leaders to help deliver what it describes as "an ambitious vision for social and economic prosperity".

They will be able to make some decisions independently, but they will be subject to a scrutiny committee.

The mayor will also be expected to champion the region nationally and internationally.

However, Prof Andy Pike, from the Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies at Newcastle University, described it as a "particularly weak mini metro-mayor" model.

"Compared to the scale and magnitude of the problems the north faces, other authorities have a wider set of powers and resources," he said.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The area stretches to Berwick-upon-Tweed and the Scottish border

What difference will it make?

The government and the NTCA said the deal would build upon the area's significant economic, educational and cultural assets to increase its contribution to both the North East and national economies.

In addition, it would ensure that all residents have the skills and opportunity to benefit from, and contribute to, future growth.

But Prof Pike, who co-authored a report entitled The North of Tyne Metro-Mayor: An Office Without Power?, said the smaller population and economic size of the area meant it would be at a disadvantage when competing with larger ones for the limited attention and resources of the government.

Although the investment fund from the government was the second-highest offered to a combined authority, he said it had to be set "against the wider squeeze of spending cuts" which the three councils involved had been particularly hard-hit by.

Prof Pike added: "It's a geographic [area] not economic one, and has very little political resonance - if you ask people what North of Tyne means, they're not sure."

He said this could compound a lack of interest in the mayoral election, where even in larger areas turnout has traditionally been low.

Who are the candidates?

There are five candidates vying to become North of Tyne Mayor:

  • John Appleby (Lib Dem) said he would help people to work together in "education, environment, health, opportunity and sustainable prosperity"
  • Jamie Driscoll (Labour) pledged policies including community housing co-operatives, a green energy company, and a "people's bank"
  • Charlie Hoult (Conservative) said he wanted to inspire the region "to think bigger and get in shape for the next Industrial Revolution"
  • Hugh Jackson (UKIP) pledged to "rekindle the fire and drive that made it the powerhouse and envy of the world"
  • John McCabe (Independent) said he would be "making the case for more devolved powers and more funding to deliver lasting, meaningful change"

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