In a great publicity coup, Higher Ground entertained the new mayor of the combined North of Tyne authority, this past Friday at their garden space. Jamie Driscoll, the successful Labour candidate at the 3rd of May election, is in charge of the first five years of national government investment (£600 million promised over a 30 year period) in the authority, which is hoped to lever some £2 billion of private investment as well into this devolved region (that is, Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland).
Like most people, I’m sure, I’ve been both confused and uncaring about this office, or indeed the whole new ‘authority.’ It’s apparently all part of the de-centralisation strategy from central government, but it comes without much publicity or understanding from anyone. The North of Tyne Combined Authority’s website is particularly vague about it all too, purporting to answer questions with a kind of blancmange of guff. And as we’ve cogitated about it all in previous diary entries, we shall have to wait to see what actually transpires. Some 10,000 new jobs are mooted to be created over the 30 year term of the deal, for example.
But meanwhile, it’s more grist for the publicity mill, and kudos for both Higher Ground, and the eager folks too at Broadband for the Allen Valleys who also received the mayor’s attention. Incidentally, I asked the B4AV group about their actual connection date with the national service, which had been heralded for the 31st of July. Not sure what the holdup has been, but I was told that the physical link-up is now expected later in September, at which time the diary will feature the group’s efforts. So I hope the visit will also have been a morale boost for this group as well.
As Jane Pryde reports on the Higher Ground website, of the mayor’s visit, “He met some of our regular volunteers and had a tour of the garden and building to find out all about the project, as he is interested in social enterprises that provide community support as well as local sustainability.”
At least, in the pages of the Hexham Courant this weekend, the photo opportunity may make a change from the endless feed of our MP Guy Opperman who seems to be featured on every other page. Anybody still believe that there’s not another general election just around the corner?