An expanded devolution deal for the North East of England has been unveiled by the government, which will see the adult education budget transfer to local leaders by 2024.
The government last week announced a new £1.4 billion deal encompassing authorities on both sides of the Tyne.
Currently the North of Tyne Combined Authority, established in 2019, covers Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland, while the non-mayoral North East Combined Authority serves Sunderland, South Tyneside, Gateshead and Durham.
Government chiefs said that under its expanded devolution deal plans, those two authorities will no longer exist and a new North East Mayoral Combined Authority formed incorporating those areas.
This is subject to local consultation and a governance review, as well as agreement from the area’s councils, but if approved will feature a new directly elected mayor in 2024.
The endeavour, featuring £48 million per year of funding for the next three decades, includes full devolution of the AEB by 2024/25 and input into drawing up local skills improvement plans (LSIPs) – key blueprints for meeting local skills needs.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities confirmed that the government will align the LSIP area with the new combined authority boundary in time for the first year of devolved AEB funding.
The government will consult with the new mayoral authority on calculating the new area’s AEB allocation. North of Tyne Combined Authority currently receives £25 million AEB from the government.
Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove said the “historic” deal will ensure local priorities are at the heart of decision-making while the funding will “provide the financial certainty needed to level up the area right now and for years to come”.
The government guidance said that while it cannot guarantee skills bootcamp funding beyond the 2022/23 financial year, it did intend to continue grant funding for mayoral combined authorities for local programmes, and will negotiate with the new devolved authority for future bootcamp funding based on demand.
In addition, the government guidance said it was “committed to providing the investment that is needed into further education colleges, subject to affordability,” targeted at areas most in need.
It said that specifically includes decisions already made on the FE capital transformation programme to Tyne Coast College Group in developing a “globally significant maritime capability”, as well as work with Education Partnership North East and the Housing Innovation and Construction Skills Academy for a new facility in advanced manufacturing and electric vehicle training.
North of Tyne metro mayor Jamie Driscoll said that the existing authority had already proved that bringing more power to local people worked, and said the new deal means “billions to invest in jobs, homes, skills training and much more”.
The deal is the latest in a string of devolution announcements by the government since the summer.