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Monday, April 22, 2024

Historic North East mayoral election to cost taxpayers over £3 Million

North East mayor: Historic election of new regional figurehead expected to cost £3m

The staging of a historic election to choose the first North East mayor is set to cost taxpayers more than £3 million.

A new political figurehead representing around two million people across Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, and Durham is due to be elected in May, after the region struck a multi-billion pound devolution deal with the Government.

Documents have now revealed that the cost of running that election is expected to be just over £3 million, which will have to be covered from the budgets of the region’s existing authorities.

There are currently six candidates expected to stand in the election, which is due to be held at the same time as local council and Police and Crime Commissioner elections on 2 May.

They are independent Jamie Driscoll, Conservative Guy Renner-Thompson, the Labour Party’s Kim McGuinness, Reform UK’s Paul Donaghy, Andrew Gray of the Green Party, and Liberal Democrat Aidan King.

The new mayor will lead a North East Mayoral Combined Authority (NEMCA) that will hold major new funding and powers, including over areas like transport and housing, with more than £6 billion having been announced so far for what is a 30-year deal.

A report presented to council leaders on Tuesday confirmed that, unlike when the North of Tyne mayoral election was held in 2019, no specific funding is being provided by the Government to cover the costs of the NEMCA election.

The price tag is currently estimated at £3.052 million – which includes printing and posting an information booklet that will be sent to every eligible voter, staffing the election count, and venue hire.

The bill will be split between the existing North of Tyne Combined Authority and the non-mayoral North East Combined Authority (NECA), both of which will be abolished once NEMCA comes into being on 7 May.

The North of Tyne, which encompasses Newcastle, Northumberland, and North Tyneside, has set aside £1.392 million to meet its share of the costs.

But members of the North East Joint Transport Committee had to sign off on Tuesday on moving £1.66 million out of its transport reserves cash to pay for the share owed from Durham, Gateshead, Sunderland, and South Tyneside.

A report to that committee stated that NECA “does not have access to any devolution funding and has not set aside any earmarked reserves to meet its share of the costs”, necessitating the use of some transport reserve funds.

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