City boosted by unity deal

Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson
Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson
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SUNDERLAND could benefit from Government funding after council bosses struck a deal to work more closely with their North East counterparts.

The region’s seven local authorities, including Sunderland City Council and Durham County Council, will work together in a bid to improve the North East’s economy.

To begin with, the group will focus on transport and skills.

The agreement reached by the LA7 Leadership Board will be backed up by a legal framework, giving the councils the ability to command greater portions of Government funding in the same way as other large areas, such as Greater Manchester.

Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson welcomed the agreement.

He said: “This announcement is about how our seven authorities can work more closely together in areas such as transport and regeneration.

“There is already significant co-operation between our councils, and we can build on that with this agreement.”

He said: “We all want to see our region become stronger, and while we continue to attract investment and see job creation, we also hope that the Government looks to more devolvement on funding and regional decision-making.”

The chairman of the LA7 Leadership Board, Gateshead Council leader Mick Henry, added: “Our ambition is to create the best possible conditions for growth in jobs, investment and living standards. We want to make the North East an excellent location for business, to prioritise and deliver high quality infrastructure, and to enable all the people we serve to raise their skill levels and benefit from economic growth into the future.

“The establishment of a statutory body will place us in the best position to receive substantial devolved powers and responsibilities.

“Together, we call on the Government to respond to this commitment.”

The board will work in partnership with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.

Its chairman, Paul Woolston, said: “This decisive move from our local councils gives business great confidence in the future success of the North East.

“I look forward to the new body playing a leading role in the future.”