1. ITV Report

Shadow Chancellor defends South of Tyne Councils' rejection of devolution deal

By Kris Jepson

The Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell MP, has told ITV News Tyne Tees that a Labour government would have "invested more into the North East" than the Chancellor pledged in the Autumn Budget.

He defended the four councils south of the Tyne - Gateshead, Sunderland, South Tyneside and Durham - who rejected a devolution deal last year, saying he "can understand" why those councils were "disillusioned" by the offer on the table.

Watch @krisjepson's interview with John McDonnell MP here:

On Friday Newcastle, Northumberland and North Tyneside councils signed what was described by government as a "landmark" devolution deal, which will see £600m of extra investment over 30 years north of the Tyne from 2019.

One of the things we will do when we get back into government now, is even before we establish new structures, we want to bring together a Council of the North, where we bring council leaders and mayors together, where we really look at a long-term plan for the North and I tell you, a lot of that will be around transport developments, infrastructure developments, like new technology, where we can get the jobs up here with high skills and high wages. But again the deal has got to be good enough, you’ve got to listen to local people and it’s all about resources, it’s all about listening to local people and what they want and if those resources don’t come on the scale that’s needed, you can see why people get disillusioned on this.

– John McDonnell MP, Shadow Chancellor

The Shadow Chancellor said "there needs to be much more investment" in the North East and he claimed he was particularly concerned more money was not pledged for North East transport and infrastructure in the Budget.

Philip Hammond MP promised a new £337 million fleet of Metro trains for Tyne and Wear and £59 million for transport improvements to be determined by the Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen.

He also promised to provide £5 million to enable the South Tees Development Corporation to take ownership of the SSI Redcar steelworks site to prepare for development there. Mr McDonnell said "all of these issues now, I think in terms of local decision-making have to rely upon what local people want, simple as that. We've got to listen to local people all the time".

The Chancellor said in his Budget speech on Wednesday "the investments I have announced today back the North East with a significant cash boost for transport improvements to connect people to jobs and make journeys quicker for everybody right across the region".

Mr McDonnell said this was not enough, compared to investment in the South East.

We’re trying to ensure we can support the government whenever it can distribute resources around the regions, but to be frank, there’s such a vast inequality in terms of the distribution of those resources, for example London and the home counties and the North East in particular. There needs to be much more investment here. I looked at the figures in terms of transport figures in particular and you’re talking about something like five or six times as much being invested in the South East, than it is up here so, of course, we welcome any mechanism that we can get resources here, but it’s insignificant in terms of what’s needed.

– John McDonnell MP, Shadow Chancellor