TALKS over a new devolution deal for the North-East are set to resume, with hopes for progress on reuniting local councils either side of the Tyne.

The prospect of electing a new mayor to cover all seven councils in the region re-emerged this year, following a previous split in which Northumberland, Newcastle and North Tyneside broke away to form their own mayoral authority in 2018.

Now, the Government is promising major investment in the region’s transport network if South Tyneside, Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham can be convinced to come back on board with a devolution package covering the entire region - an idea abandoned in 2016 amid a bitter dispute among the region’s Labour-dominated authorities.

Jamie Driscoll, who was elected mayor of the North of Tyne region in 2019, says that negotiations are now moving forward and that getting a slice of a £4.2 billion transport funding pot represents “half a billion reasons why we should do it” – on top of the other powers and resources that could be placed into the hands of local leaders.

In September, local government minister Simon Clarke called for talks with council leaders on a new devolution deal. Mr Clarke resigned his post shortly afterwards, but a meeting was held with his replacement Luke Hall and another conversation with ministers is scheduled after the holidays.

Mr Driscoll said: “We agreed that we would start working out what would need to be in the next devolution package.

"We are progressing from our side, I have a meeting with ministers just after Christmas, and then we will start to work it through.

"Realistically, we were hoping the devolution white paper would have been out and it is not. That is not going to be, on our expectations, until after the May elections. That is when I would expect to see us making formal decisions either way.”