Current Devolution Proposals a Step Forward But Greater Transparency And Democratic Accountability Needed


Liberal Democrats in the North East believe the Government's devolution proposals are "not ideal", but believe they are an acceptable first step in an incremental process of greater devolution for the region in the future, provided that greater transparency and accountability safeguards are included.

 Devolution to the North East

Liberal Democrats in the North East believe the Government's devolution proposals are "not ideal", but believe they are an acceptable first step in an incremental process of greater devolution for the region in the future, provided that greater transparency and accountability safeguards are included.
 
At an all-member meeting of the party's regional executive at Durham County Hall, the party agreed a resolution stating that the party regards the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill to be "not ideal, but is likely to give a real possibility of seeing power devolved from Westminster and Whitehall into our region", which will "enable policies and practices to better reflect the needs and circumstances of the region, to achieve better integration of local services, and to help grow the regional economy".
 
The party has long championed greater devolution to English regions, and its constitution speaks of "working for a democratic system where as much power as feasible is exercised by the nations and regions of the UK" and "promoting democratic local government in which decisions are taken and services delivered at the most local level which is viable".
 
Regional chair Ian Jones commented "Liberal Democrats are committed to devolution and democratic accountability, and we welcome the opportunity to maximise devolution to the North East. We will seek to work with emerging structures being discussed by Government, NECA, and TVU - potentially including elected metro mayors - with a view to securing further advances in devolution on an incremental basis." 
 
However, Lib Dems believe that the new structures will need to make demonstrable progress on transparency and scrutiny, as well as proving that mayors and combined authorities can discharge their responsibilities efficiently, add value, and make a difference. Liberal Democrat peers led by former Newcastle leader Lord Shipley have already secured amendments to the draft legislation in Parliament to this end. 
 
Mr Jones said: "We very much want to see regional devolution succeed, but it must be transparent and accountable to the public. In our view 'business as usual' under a system where only one party holds all the power is problematic. We consider that there needs to be a broader debate not just on the principle of devolving more power and funds to the region, but also on the policies to be followed and the actions needed to secure improved outcomes on transport, skills, employment, and economic development."
 
"This agenda will directly affect the future governance of the North East and is too important to be left to Conservative ministers in Whitehall and North East Labour council leaders who are being left far behind by the likes of Manchester and Leeds. Lib Dems in the North East are indicating our willingness to engage with the current proposals and we will be carefully scrutinising NECA and TVU’s proposals to Government which are due to be submitted by early September. 
 
We want to see the devolution debate progress in line with an aspiration to greater directly-elected devolution over time, and we will be encouraging dialogue between local Lib Dem party members and councillor groups to set out a distinctive Lib Dem policy platform for mayors and Combined Authorities in the region."

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