Sunderland council leader reflects on a tough year for the city

Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson
Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson
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IT has been a year of ups and downs for Sunderland City Council with both dramatically slashed budgets and major development plans being unveiled.

Here council leader Paul Watson looks back on a year of changes and difficult decisions as he also speaks of his hopes for 2014.

“As leader of the City Council, several subjects are regularly raised with me.

“This is because people care about them and one subject that comes back again and again is budgets.

“Over the last three years the council has taken more than £100million out of its budgets and has to take a similar figure out over the next three years.

“So there is going to be more change – and this change is going to be a constant as the council makes more difficult budget decisions.

“Another question I’m often asked is: what’s happening at the Vaux site?

“It’s now nearly three years since the council gained ownership and nobody could deny how there has been a lot of very positive progress.

“Work on re-shaping neighbouring St Mary’s Way is progressing well and this is helping create the new public square as a fresh focal point for the city centre.

“On Vaux itself, we now have a development partner and expect some major announcements through 2014.

“This partner is to help us improve the concentration of new economic activity with higher value job creation, bring more dormant sites back into use, and offer more housing choice.

“The council is also investing elsewhere, such as the new £11million Washington Leisure Centre and work here is due to start in the coming months.

“In 2013, there have been 60 major projects helping create more than 2,000 new jobs and there growth continues to be strong in the automotive sector and we have seen an upsurge in the hi-tech IT sector.

“This is in addition to almost £300million of business investment and the council has played a key role in making these projects and investments happen.

“There are many changes to come from the council yet our commitment to caring, improving, investing, and creating more economic growth is not changing in 2014.”

See tomorrow’s Echo for Conservative opposition leader Robert Oliver’s New Year message.