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North East devolution talks 'move to the next stage'

The Angel of the North, Gateshead Credit: John Walton/EMPICS Sport

Plans for North East devolution are moving to the next stage of negotiations with the Government, according to the North East Combined Authority.

The proposals focus on the potential devolution of powers, funding and responsibilities relating to the economy, investment, transport, jobs and skills in the region.

An agreement would see the North East have a directly elected mayor, and would represent a major change to the way in which decisions affecting the region are made.

Councillor Simon Henig, Chair of the North East Combined Authority, said:

Talks today on a devolution offer from Government have been going well.

Reaching a deal takes time, but leaders have all agreed to move forward to the next stage of negotiations and are all determined to reach an agreement that is good for the North East.

Leaders will continue to seek further consultation with the public and other stakeholders and acceptable outcomes to the spending review and legislation currently before Parliament.

– Cllr Simon Henig, Chair of the North East Combined Authority

The North East Combined Authority was created by the seven local authorities of Durham County Council, Gateshead Council, Newcastle City Council, North Tyneside Council, Northumberland County Council, South Tyneside Council and Sunderland City Council.


What the politicians are saying about Redcar

Paul Brand, ITV Political Correspondent

Credit: PA

Five things politicians have told ITV News Tyne Tees about Redcar steel plant today:

  • The fund for retraining workers is £50m, not £80m - the government now admits some of the original sum was for redundancy payments.
  • The government has promised training funds won't be frittered away on basic courses, like CV-writing, but will go towards serious retraining.
  • There are still businesses expressing an interest in bidding for the plant - but the government says the bidders won't stump up the cash to keep the coke ovens going, so the bids aren't realistic.
  • Off camera, there was a tense confrontation between Business Minister Anna Soubry and local MPs Anna Turley and Tom Blenkinsop late last night, as they cornered here in parliament and begged her for last-minute action.
  • The government will consider applying for emergency funds to support Teesside through this crisis from an EU pot called the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund.

Helen Goodman issues statement of apology

Credit: PA

Labour MP Helen Goodman has issued an official response following her Twitter row with Jeremy Hunt:

Last week Jeremy Hunt tried to justify the Tory tax credit cuts by saying, 'My wife is Chinese… are we going to be a country that is prepared to work hard in the way that Asian economies are prepared to work hard'?

My tweet was a follow up to his remarks, not an attack on his wife.

Like many other people I was appalled by his remarks because working conditions in China are terrible, there are no free trade unions and many human rights abuses.

I am sorry that I tactlessly offended some people and have apologised. I repeat, I am sincerely sorry for this."

– Helen Goodman MP


Shadow Chancellor to visit threatened SSI steel plant

The Shadow Chancellor will visit the SSI steel plant, which is set to close with the loss of up to 1,700 jobs.

John McDonnell told ITV News Tyne Tees' Political Correspondent Paul Brand, he would be making a trip up to Redcar "on Monday if not before".

He has said he plans to put "maximum pressure" on the Government to do more to help the stricken plant:

The factory is being shut down after Thai owner SSI said it had no other choice because of plummeting steel prices.

Noise protest held against dawn raids

Credit: Laura Lean/PA Wire

People in Newcastle have held a 'noise protest' against dawn raids carried out by Home Office Immigration Enforcement Teams in the Tyne and Wear area.

Residents with pots, pans, whistles and drums descended on the new base of the regional Home Office Enforcement Team, in Newcastle city centre on Thursday morning. They say this is the base for "disruptive" raids which target the homes of asylum applicants.

The Home Office issued this statement in response to the protests:

"The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who genuinely need it, but where someone is found not to need our protection we expect them to leave the country voluntarily. This is important in ensuring that our help is directed to those who really need it.

Assistance can be provided to people found not to have the right to remain in the UK in returning to their home country. If they refuse to engage with this process we will enforce their removal."

Sunderland man in court over explosive charges

A raid was carried out on a house in West Belfast on Friday

A man from Sunderland has appeared in court in Northern Ireland accused of possessing guns and explosives. Kevin Nolan, 45, was arrested on Wearside at the weekend.

Explosives, guns and bullets were seized during a raid of a house in West Belfast last Friday.

Nolan faces charges of possessing Semtex and two detonators in suspicious circumstances, and with intent to endanger life.

The 45-year-old, who has been linked to an address at Whitchurch Close in Sunderland, is also accused of having firearms and a quantity of ammunition. He was remanded in custody by Belfast Magistrates.

A 29-year-old man arrested in Belfast on Sunday as part of the same investigation has been released unconditionally. A 21-year-old woman detained at the same time remains in custody.

Owners of SSI say they may sell Redcar plant

Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

The Thai owners of the SSI steelworks in Redcar have said that they may sell the plant in a recent press conference in Bangkok.

The blast furnaces at the site were shut down on Friday following revelations last week that the plant was in serious financial difficulties.

The Redcar steelworks employs 2,000 people whose futures are uncertain. It also uses an additional 1,000 contract workers who fear they may be out of work by next week.

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