The North East Combined Authority (the NECA) was established by the Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle Upon Tyne, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland Combined Authority Order 2014 (SI 2014/1012) (the 2014 Order).
There are no mayoral arrangements. Discussions regarding North East devolution are on hold following a Government announcement on 8 September 2016 that the region's deal has been withdrawn. Members of the North East Leadership Board (the Leadership Board) had reached a majority decision on 6 September 2016 not to begin the next stage in the process at this present time. This was because they had been unable to reach an agreement on the terms under which they were being asked to proceed.
NECA is composed of the following members: seven constituent authorities, one Local Enterprise Partnership (the LEPs). The constituent authorities are Durham County Council, Gateshead Council, Newcastle Upon Tyne City Council, North Tyneside Council, Northumberland County Council, South Tyneside Council and Sunderland City Council (the Constituent Councils). The LEP is the North East LEP.
The Leadership Board is the strategic decision-making body of the Combined Authority. The Chair is Paul Watson from Sunderland City Council, the Vice Chair being Simon Henig from Durham County Council.
Powers of NECA relate to transport, employability and inclusion and economic development and regeneration.
NECA took over the responsibilities of the Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority (ITA). The ITA was established under the Transport Act 1968 for Tyne and Wear and survived the abolition of Tyne and Wear County Council in 1985. The ITA's duties relate to the Tyne Tunnels, Metro and buses and include: functions of the former are provided for within the Transport Acts 1968, 1983, 1985 and 2000, the Local Government Act 1972, the Transport and Works Act 1992 and the Local Transport Act 2008 and appointing members of the Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive.
NECA also took over the duties of Durham and Northumberland County Councils under Parts IV and V of the Transport Act 1985 "to secure the provision of such public passenger transport services as the council consider it appropriate to secure to meet any public transport requirements within the county which would not in their view be met apart from any action taken by them for that purpose".
Economic development and degeneration
The powers are expressed as "exercisable concurrently with the constituent councils" which means that each council retains the ability to carry out the same functions: conversely a Constituent Council's duty to exercise a function is fulfilled where the NECA does it.
NECA's powers include the following:
- Such functions of the Constituent Councils as are exercisable for the purpose of economic development and regeneration in reliance on the general power of competence under section 1 of the Localism Act 2011(a)
- The power under section 144 of the Local Government Act 1972 (the power to encourage visitors and provide conference and other facilities)
- The duties under sections 15ZA, 15ZB, 15ZC, 17A and 18A(1)(b) of the Education Act 1996(b) and the power under sections 514A and 560A of that Act (duties and powers related to the provision of education and training for persons over compulsory school age).
- The duty under section 69 of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 (duty to prepare an assessment of economic conditions).
NECA is a local authority for the purposes of the Apprenticeship, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009. Local authorities must secure that enough suitable education and training is provided to meet the reasonable needs of (a) persons in their area who are over compulsory school age but under 19, and (b) persons in their area who are aged 19 or over but under 25 and are subject to learning difficulty assessment.
NECA's powers include the following:
General Powers (Articles 13, 14):
- publication of information regarding the functions of the CA (Section 142(2) LGA 1972)
- power to prosecute and defend legal proceedings. (Section 122 LGA 1972)
- research and collection of information (subsection (1)(a) and (b) of section 88 of the Local Government Act 1985).
Other powers and duties:
- broad well-being powers given to it by virtue of sections 99 and 102A of the Local Transport Act 2008, the functions related to the general power of competence given to it under section 1 of the Localism Act 2011 and the general powers granted to it by virtue of section 113A of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 to promote economic growth
- duty to appoint a Head of Paid Service, a Monitoring Officer and an Officer with responsibility for the administration of the NECA’s financial affairs
- power to borrow money for a purpose relevant to its transport functions only
- power to appoint staff and to enter into agreements with other local authorities for the secondment of staff
- power to acquire land by agreement or compulsorily for the purpose of any of its functions and to dispose of such land
- power to pay subscriptions to the funds of local authority associations
- duty (without prejudice to any other obligation) to exercise its functions with due regard to the need to prevent crime and disorder, the misuse of drugs and alcohol or re-offending in the Combined Area
- power under section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972 to do anything (subject to any other enactment) which is calculated to facilitate, or is conducive or incidental to the discharge of the NECA’s functions
- NECA is a local authority for the purposes of the Local Government Act 1972 and in particular section 101 of the Local Government Act 1972 (arrangements for the discharge of functions by local authorities)
- NECA is a best value authority for the purpose of section 1 of the Local Government Act 1999
- NECA is a public body for the purpose of the Freedom of Information Act 2000
- NECA is a local authority for the purpose of the power of a Minister of the Crown to pay grants.
NECA is a body corporate (Article 3(2)) and its constitution is set out in Schedule 1 of the 2014 Order. It is made up of representatives of the seven Constituent Councils and one (non-voting) LEP member.
The NECA constitution provides that in the absence of specific delegations to other bodies referred to in the constitution (including committees and sub-committees of the Leadership Board), all functions remain with the Leadership Board.
Most decisions are taken on a simple majority of the members in attendance, however unanimity or all seven Constituent Council members is required in relation to the following:
- adoption of any strategic growth plan as provided for in the Combined Authority’s standing orders
- adoption of any local transport plan under section 108(3) of the Transport Act 2000
- approval of the Combined Authority’s annual budget
- setting of any transport levy under section 74 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 and in accordance with regulations made thereunder
- allocation of local transport plan funding to the individual Constituent Councils
- approval of growth schemes set out in any adopted strategic growth plan, including the local major schemes devolved funding
- approval of borrowing limits, treasury management strategy including reserves, investment strategy and capital budget of the Combined Authority
- such other plans and strategies as may be determined by the Combined Authority and set out in its standing orders.
In addition to the Leadership Board, NECA's constitution provides for the following committees:
- Transport NE Committee
- Transport NE (Tyne and Wear) Sub-Committee
- Governance Committee
- Overview and Scrutiny Committee
- Economic Development and Regeneration Advisory Board.