The deal will see a transfer of power over skills, transport and housing to people across Northumberland, Newcastle, Sunderland and elsewhere
Levelling Up minister Michael Gove said he accepted the North East of England “has sometimes been overlooked in the past” as he signed a £1.4 billion devolution deal for the region.
The North East will become the latest area to have a directly elected mayor following the deal to transfer powers over skills, transport and housing to people across Northumberland, Newcastle, Sunderland and elsewhere.
Mr Gove, the Mayor of North Tyne and representatives from the seven local authorities covering the region signed the deal at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, in Gateshead, on Friday.
The devolution plan will see the introduction of a new directly elected mayor, with proposals for elections to take place in May 2024, following a consultation process.
The deal will deliver a promised £1.4 billion over the next 30 years, with fresh powers over the multi-million pound adult education budget and a greater say over the local skills improvement plan.
The region has also been promised £17.4 million to support the building of new homes on brownfield land, as well as £20 million for regeneration projects.
Under the new North East Mayoral Combined Authority, local leaders would also be given control of up to £563 million to improve local rail services, under the city region sustainable transport settlement.
Speaking to reporters in Gateshead, Mr Gove said he “absolutely accepted that the North East has sometimes been overlooked in the past” but that the deal would make the region “an even more attractive place for investment in high value manufacturing and other high paying jobs”.
Asked whether the deal went far enough given how much councils have lost in funding, he said: “Every party (after the 2008 financial crash) acknowledged that there had to be some trimming back, but now we’re in a position in the last spending review to increase the amount of money that local government gets and today there is even more alongside additional powers.
“I’ve always said that levelling up will take time, but we need to crack on and I do believe that today will mark a significant step forward.”
A local consultation on the deal is now open and if approved, people across Northumberland, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Gateshead, South Tyneside, Sunderland, and County Durham will be given the power to elect directly a Mayor of the North East.
The Government says this person can act as a “local champion” to attract investment to the area.
Signing the deal, North Tyneside Mayor Dame Norma Redfearn praised plans for 24,000 jobs, 3,000 new homes and “major long term investment to help people get into trades”.
“Having been around this area for some time, there’s still some people who are on their third generation of unemployment. Let’s make it a better place for them and their families,” she said.