Councillor calls for devolution referendum
A Berwick councillor has called for a referendum on the North of Tyne devolution deal.
Coun Georgina Hill, Independent member for Berwick East, was speaking during Northumberland County Council’s meeting on Monday.
The meeting was convened to get the council’s approval to authorise the chief executive and leader of the council to issue the formal consent to the Secretary of State to withdraw from the existing North East Combined Authority and establish a new North of Tyne mayoral combined authority.
The council voted 52 in favour of the plans with Coun Hill and Jeff Reid, the leader of the Liberal Democrat group, being the only ones who voted against.
Coun Hill said: “It was disappointing to see both the main parties whipping this vote so heavily when it is the type of issue where parties should grant their members a free vote. For me, as a democrat, I can not support the route we are going down without a clear mandate from residents through a referendum.”
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Coun Hill had asked; “What evidence is there that the people of Northumberland want this?” and; “What assurances can be given that the parts of Northumberland, traditionally neglected and who have lost out during various local government settlements, such as the very north and Berwick, will benefit?”
She also questioned what justification there was for not putting this directly to residents, through a referendum, when the Mayor will have significant powers including the ability to raise taxes and over compulsory purchase orders.
Council leader, Peter Jackson confirmed that there would not be a referendum and said that the county council was not losing any powers but the new authority would be gaining powers from central government.