Sunderland moving closer to joining North East ‘super council’

Paul Watson.
Paul Watson.
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PLANS for Sunderland to join a North East “super council” have moved a step closer.

Council leaders from across the region have until January 2 to submit their final response on the plans to the Secretary of State.

At a meeting of Sunderland City Council’s cabinet, it was agreed that the ultimate decision will be made by council leader Paul Watson and chief executive of the council, Dave Smith.

The cabinet agreed to the plans for a combined authority, which could include Durham, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear, in principal, but concerns were raised over issues including finance, how the North East Enterprise Partnership will be led, and who will lead the authority in each area.

A public consultation on the issue has taken place over the last two weeks, but only received 500 replies.

Cabinet leader Paul Watson said: “I feel it would be unsafe to make a decision on such a small sample. It wasn’t definitive.

“I don’t feel the cabinet should feel bound by that, it’s too unsafe.”

He added if council leaders make the wrong decision, it will be a “disaster” for the area.

Councillor John Kelly, responsible for health, wellness and culture, said plans need further clarification, but he is “fully in favour of integration.”

Councillor James Blackburn, responsible for city services, said: “I think it is the way forward for Sunderland.

“But I think transport raised one or two issues, such as how long will it take for full integration and what will it mean for the infrastructure. It needs to be addressed. ”

Councillor Graeme Miller, responsible for health, housing and adult services, called for clarity on how much the combined authority would cost Sunderland.

He said: “It has never been done that way before, so I think we need some clarity on those areas.”