A hundred-day milestone, marking the North of Tyne Mayor’s time in office, sees the new North of Tyne Combined Authority already making a difference.
Exciting plans to create a dynamic and more inclusive economy were launched when the Combined Authority was set up at the end of last year. Delivery of Mayor Jamie Driscoll’s manifesto is now seeing these plans put in place.
North of Tyne secured a £600m devolution deal from central government and there is an ambition to secure more power and resources for the region. Investment in the area has already begun and this would not have happened without the deal and a directly-elected mayor being in place.
The focus of Mayor Driscoll’s manifesto is community wealth building, addressing climate change, setting up community hubs, building affordable homes and providing meaningful adult education.
Already £22m of skills investment has been brought under local control, which will allow the Combined Authority to tailor adult education to local need enabling people into work. There will be full responsibility for Adult Education Budgets by August 2020.
To address climate change, the three individual local authorities – Northumberland, North Tyneside and Newcastle – have declared their own climate emergencies and they are currently reviewing best practice to decide where the Combined Authority can add value to their work in this area. The Combined Authority is also supporting the United Nation’s Climate Education Programme for teachers, which involves working to get every school to have a UN-accredited climate change teacher.
The setting up of a People’s Bank, to support sustainable economic development by retaining banking profits in the North East, was also part of Mayor Driscoll’s manifesto. Funding for a study to explore the feasibility and financial viability of establishing such a bank has now been approved by the Combined Authority Cabinet.
In terms of investment, the Combined Authority has so far:
· Helped young people to develop science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills by investing £1.25m. A project has been set up which aims to encourage more young people to develop their skills to meet demand in key areas of the labour market. This programme aims to deliver over 50,000 additional interactions with young people.
· Secured funding to bring about a massive improvement of the digital infrastructure. The Combined Authority secured an additional £12m from national government over and above the three local authorities’ own resource. This will transform digital connectivity and deliver gigabit ready fibre to over 700 public buildings across the area.
· Helped more people into work. The Combined Authority Cabinet has agreed £618k of funding to support those who have been unable to work because they have been caring for loved ones. The project, called the Returnships Programme, will support people to return to paid employment. The Cabinet has also set aside £3m of match funding for projects that qualify for grants from the European Social Fund, ESF, to deliver employment support and skills training for 3,500 people. In addition, North of Tyne Working Homes is a £4.3m project delivered through a partnership of local authorities and social housing providers across the North of Tyne area. It aims to support 1,650 unemployed and inactive residents in social housing back into work.
· Supported business growth in both rural and urban areas. In rural areas the Cabinet has approved £1.2m investment into a £7.9m three-year growth project. A £4.6m European Regional Development Programme application has been made to help businesses grow in urban areas. This will create nearly 500 jobs and lever an additional £10.5m of private sector investment.
· Enabled inward investment. The Cabinet has agreed a £3m inward investment fund, which will create 600 jobs and leverage £17.1m of private sector investment by October.
· Provided bespoke support for high-growth innovative SME’s. This is for an Incubator and Accelerator project based on the Newcastle Helix site where £456k is being invested to bring new products to market. This includes providing grants of up to £25k per business. The project will create 70 jobs, support 72 businesses and lever in an additional £140k of private investment.
· Invested £400k to host a North of Tyne Stage of the Tour of Britain Cycle Race, which will take place in September 2019.
The Combined Authority is also developing business cases to secure additional investment for several bigger projects. These include the Northumberland to Newcastle Train Line, a master plan to develop North Shields, supporting the development of other transport projects – this includes our Transforming Cities submission and £200k for a master plan to develop the General Hospital site.
Work will continue to attract new businesses and more visitors to the area. The Combined Authority is also working with private and public sector partners to develop significant investment propositions in the following areas:
· Digital and Data
· Life Sciences and Ageing
· Energy, Offshore and Renewables
As figurehead of the Combined Authority Mayor Driscoll has been meeting members of the community as well as business leaders to ensure that people living and working in the North of Tyne region feel included and are involved. In addition to this important regional work he is a member of the powerful M9 group made up of England’s directly elected Mayors and mayoral combined authorities. He said:
“It has been a busy first 100 days – I’ve declared a Climate Emergency and got a UN accredited programme in place for a climate change teacher in every school. We’ve secured £12mn to get full fibre broadband into every public building in Northumberland – this is new money to boost our rural economy. We’ve secured the devolution of post-19 education – that’s £22mn to support our people to get the skills and training they need. We’ve started work on the People’s Bank; we’re supporting hundreds of people back into work who’ve previously been caring for relatives, we’re creating 250 new jobs by supporting small business growth and another 70 jobs by supporting innovative business in the Newcastle Helix site. Not bad for a new organisation that’s still recruiting the staff we need, and there’s lots more exciting projects in the pipeline.
“I’ve spoken to ministers, met with businesses large and small to understand their barriers to growth, unions and voluntary organisations to develop a Good Work Pledge, education providers about developing skills programmes, specialists in public transport to develop more sustainable travel – the list goes on. I work with the other Metro Mayors, like Andy Burnham, Steve Rotheram and Sadiq Khan to secure stronger devolution – and I’ve written to the new Prime Minister to take up his offer of giving us the powers we need to make the North East the brilliant place to grow-up, work and retire that we want it to be.”