HISTORY was made during the nine-minute first meeting of the new North East Combined Authority.
The authority – full title: Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland Combined Authority – is made up of the leaders of each of the local councils.
Supporters of the new body hope it will enable the region to speak with a stronger voice to draw in Central Government and other inward investment. It will also take over responsibility for transport in the area it covers.
The order forming the body was signed on Monday by Stephen Williams, a Parliamentary under secretary of state.
It’s first meeting, at County Hall in Durham, had to be held the day after the order was signed. Three of the leaders were absent, including Sunderland City Council leader Coun Paul Watson, who was represented by his deputy on the body, Coun Harry Trueman.
The meeting voted to appoint Durham County Council leader Coun Simon Henig as its chairman.
Three support officers were also appointed, including Sonia Tognarelli, Sunderland Council’s head of financial resources, who will act as chief finance officer for the new body.
Speaking after the meeting, Coun Henig said: “This was always going to be a preliminary meeting to comply with the next day requirement of the order. Only time will tell, but I think the creation of the North East Combined Authority will be seen as significant.
“The legislation for these bodies was created by the Tory/Lib Dem Government, and only this week, Ed Miliband was talking about devolving more power to them.
“It makes sense for the local authorities to work more closely together.”
The members do not receive any extra allowance.
The next meeting of the new body is at Gateshead Civic Centre on April 29 at 2pm.
Among the expected agenda items are initial proposals for better integration of public and road transport.