North East Bylines 12.01.24

January 13, 2024

North East Bylines Article 12th January 2024

Two Labour politicians have claimed that central government is withholding transport money from County Durham. According to them, “the government froze Durham out of a key transport fund” that will cause “two-tier devolution”.

This is 100% untrue, and they know it is untrue. This goes beyond spin, it is outright deception.

The background and history in Durham
In my 2019 manifesto I promised I’d work to get transport devolution for the whole North East. I worked for years to secure that deal – now worth £6.1 billion to the region – it’s the best funded devolution deal in the country. Durham was originally part of the negotiations from 2020. They then chose to negotiate their own deal in 2021. Government said they would not get transport money if they did that, so in mid-2022 I proposed they rejoin the rest of the region.

In August 2022 Durham Labour leader Carl Marshall launched a campaign to stop Durham joining the North East deal. He approached all the Labour council leaders asking them to block Durham. He campaigned against it on social media. He even told council leaders that Durham County Council would reject the deal, because independents would vote with him.

I persuaded government ministers to leave the door open for Durham. But after Carl Marshall’s campaign, I had a hell of a battle with the Labour council leaders to persuade them to let Durham back in. In the end it was agreed that Durham could join, but the other Labour leaders insisted that Durham should not get part of the first £475 million of transport money. After that, Durham gets its full share of all future transport investment – including all the new money coming from the cancellation of the HS2 northern leg. This only applies to capital investment, by the way. Durham still gets its share of bus revenue support and pothole money from day 1.

Durham County Council was absolutely right to join with the rest of the North East. Without it they would be getting no new transport money at any time. In the North East we’re sick of Westminster politicians lying to us. Now we’re being deceived by a Mayoral candidate parachuted in by London Labour HQ. No wonder trust in politicians is so low.

Paragraph 110 of the North East Devolution Deal states unequivocally that spending decisions are made by the new Mayor in conjunction with the council leaders, not by central Government. If Ms McGuinness wants Durham to get its share of the £475 million, she needs to oppose the local council leaders.

My transport plans if re-elected
If I’m re-elected in May, this time as North East Mayor, I’ll begin work on day 1 to integrate buses, trains and Metros. I’ll lever in funding for the Leamside Line. I’ll start building a Total Transport Network that covers rural areas. I’ll also make travel free for 18s and under.