Does this map look familiar to you? This shows Northumberland in the 1700s. In the 1970s its southern border was chiseled away to form North Tyneside – a Council that was part of the new county of Tyne and Wear. Newcastle also joined Tyne and Wear, having been a county in its own right since 1400.
So much for history – the current Conservative leadership of Northumberland County Council is campaigning for a new regional authority that will combine all three of these councils – i.e., Northumberland, North Tyneside and Newcastle. Tentatively called the North of Tyne Authority [though a bit is someway south of the Tyne] the proposal is for an agreement between the three to join hands, drawn up with central government, and featuring its own mayor – to be elected in 2018.
Whether this comes about is down to everybody agreeing – but in an era where localism is supposed to involve the voters having an opportunity to express their views, it might be time to ask your local County Councillor what is happening, and what will happen to far-flung regions like Berwick if NCC Leader Councillor Jackson’s plan succeeds.
This throws into more uncertainty the future of County Hall in Morpeth. Apparently rescued by the cancelled new building in Ashington, its future still looks dodgy. My source believes that the new authority would be based at the North Tyneside HQ down in Cobalt Park. Anyone wanting to preserve some of the fine sculpture work in the old County Building needs to work out a strategy, while there is still time.
Meanwhile, which political party or parties will lead the new Authority, and how soon will voters be able to choose who will represent them, when it meets?