Crunch talks to save Sunderland ‘super-council’ after Sunderland council leader pulls out

Paul Watson
Paul Watson
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CRISIS meetings are being held in an attempt to save plans for a new super council for the region.

Plans to launch a combined authority which could see millions of pounds invested into the North East, boost jobs in the region and a new automotive park built next to Nissan, were thrown into doubt when Sunderland City Council’s leader called for a delay.

Councillor Paul Watson has raised questions over how much the new authority would cost, if it would need a new expensive headquarters and what powers would be taken from the member councils, and wants answers before pressing ahead with a decision.

Sunderland, along with South Tyneside, Durham, North Tyneside, Gateshead, Newcastle and Northumberland, would share some functions, but by working together, they would be given a bigger say into how cash is invested.

Coun Watson, backed by South Tyneside’s leader Iain Malcolm, believes the idea would be positive for Sunderland but thinks the plans are not ambitious enough.

The halt has been caused just weeks before the Government’s consultation closes but coun Watson has said he will still try and secure the future of the automotive park.

The hold up has caused concerns among the business community and sent chief executives at the councils into crisis talks to try and resolve the issues.

Councillor Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council and the man lined up to become chairman of the new organisation, has said the group will try and work through the objections as quickly as possible.

Coun Henig said: “We all recognise the importance of working together to promote jobs and growth and to give the region an greater say on key decisions and funding.

“We have made a strong proposal to the Government to establish a combined authority and joint arrangements for jobs, skills and economic growth.

“A short period of opportunity still exists to achieve unanimous support for the combined authority and we will continue to work through this period to try and achieve this.”

He has also added his thanks for the support given to the plans by businesses, including the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and the region’s Chamber of Commerce.