‘Major boost’ to economy

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UNION bosses have welcomed plans for Sunderland to have more power to create jobs and increase investment – but warned that more needs to be done.

As reported in yesterday’s Echo, Sunderland is one of 20 cities and regions invited to bid for more freedom and flexibility under the second wave of the Government’s “city deals” programmes. The first wave saw deals struck with England’s eight largest cities in July.

Yesterday’s announcement is aimed at the next 14 largest cities and the next six with the highest population growth between 2001 to 2010.

Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson said the move could give a major boost to Sunderland’s economy and that of the wider area.

But Kevin Rowan, regional secretary of the Northern TUC had a mixed reaction.

He said: “These changes to how infrastructure programmes are prioritised and resourced, giving more influence to localities and regions is welcome. But to say Central Government has no role to play wilfully ignores the spatially-prejudiced way in which spending on these areas has been carried out in the past.

“We know that infrastructure budgets in London, for example, are 200 times higher per capita than the resource allocations for the north east.”