Major improvements to public transport services will be possible if councils across the North East join forces, according to North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll.
He said there was ‘a deal on the table’ to create a single mayor-led authority for the region, which would be eligible for up to £500 million for road and transport schemes.
The region is currently split between into two regional councils, called combined authorities-the North of the Tyne and North Tyneside.
The remaining local authorities of Gateshead, Country Durham, South Tyneside and Sunderland rejected proposals to create a directly-elected mayor in 2016.
Speaking to MPs, Mr Driscoll said the arguments of the past were “water under the Tyne bridge”, and he hoped to see all seven councils united in a single combined authority, reports the Chronicle Live.
He said that the current divisions were costing the region money. The Government had offered funding to improve transport links between cities and major towns, known as the Intracity Transport Fund, but only areas with mayors were allowed to bid for a share.
Giving evidence to the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, he said: “Sitting on the table is the Intra-city Transport Fund … there’s a half a billion quid on the table. And that’s a pretty big reason for people to come together and change the governance.”
He added: “What isn’t working so well is the transport system. If we could get a better bus system, if we could get an integrated transport system, that would work much better.”
Mr Driscoll also told MPs the Government should consult with regional mayors when developing national policy on issues such as health.
He said: “Policy making is too London centric. If you look at England, the idea that England needs to be represented as a bloc is where the problem arises. The North East economically has very little in common with London.”