What Will Growth Deals Do For Northumberland?

What use will growth deals be?

Why has there not been proper consultation with residents about the North of Tyne elected Mayor and a Borderlands Growth Deal?

Can the deals help get the A1 fully dualled?

These were the questions posed this week by Berwick's Lib Dem peers in the House of Lords.

Lord Beith, former MP for Berwick, asked Local Government Minister Lord Bourne in vain for a firm date when these new bodies would have any money to spend in Northumberland. 

He also challenged ministers on their insistence that Northumberland would get no extra growth help unless an elected Mayor was part of the North of Tyne plan, and wanted to know why no consultation document had ever been sent out to Northumberland residents who are covered by both the North of Tyne deal and the Borderlands plan, a cross-border initiative which does not include an elected Mayor.

During the same debate, Baroness Maddock, a former Lib Dem Councillor for Berwick, reminded ministers that a recent report had branded the A1 one of the most dangerous roads in the country. If the Government really wanted to support growth in Northumberland, she said, they should get on with dualling all the way to Edinburgh.

In response to these questions, Lord Bourne admitted that "no date" had been set for when funds would be available for Northumberland, and could only say that discussions were "progressing well". He also added that the Government had "committed funds for improvements on the A1 from Newcastle to Berwick", highlighting again that only the Lib Dems are committed to fully dualling the A1 up to Edinburgh. 

Commenting after the exchanges, Lord Beith said: 

"These plans involve so much confusion and delay that I cannot see them delivering real improvements for Northumberland in reasonable time.

"It will be at least 2020 before anything emerges from the North of Tyne plan, as it has to wait for the election of a completely unnecessary elected Mayor, and no-one seems to have any idea when the Borderlands scheme, which stretches from Berwick to the Lake District and Stranraer, will be able to do anything for Northumberland." 

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