Authorities join force to help region’s economy

Coun paul watson
Coun paul watson
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SUNDERLAND has agreed to join forces with six other local authorities and take on more powers to improve the region’s economy.

At a meeting held at Sunderland Civic Centre, the full city council agreed to endorse the plans, so they can be submitted to the government.

The aim of the combined authority is to create the best possible conditions for growth in jobs, investment and living standards.

It is hoped it will act as a balance to recent economic conditions, structural changes and funding cuts.

Part of the LA7 group, Sunderland will join Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, and South Tyneside to form the combined authority.

It will then, if approved by parliament, have devolved powers to make strategic decisions across local authority boundaries in the areas of economic growth, skills and transport, from next April.

Council leaders and elected mayors will represent each local authority, ending cross-party representation in the form of the Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority (ITA), which will be dissolved.

Sunderland Tory leader Coun Robert Oliver said his party broadly supports the creation of the combined authority. However, he added: “It’s very important to point out that the creation of any combined authority is about the devolution of powers from central government.

“It’s unlikely to add much more to what we already have.

“It should be a chance to stand on our own two feet. We will have to ensure we have the powers to do the job.

“The ITA will disappear and multi-party representation will no longer exist. It will only be represented by one political party across the seven authorities.

“There is no provision for the opposition and that is a concern.”

Council leader Paul Watson said: “How much devolution is a significant issue, we’ve asked for economic investment and growth, skills and transport, and as we go on, there is no reason we can’t get other things in there if we need them.”

The cost of establishing the new authority will be offset by efficiency gains and requirements fulfilled by existing staff, according to the report before the council.