Tributes pour in for Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson
Politicians have been paying tribute to Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson following his death.
Coun Watson, leader of the authority since 2008, passed away aged 63 following a battle with cancer.
Julie Elliott, MP for Sunderland Central, paid tribute to Coun Watson saying: “My thoughts are with Paul’s family at this very sad time.
“Paul has fought cancer bravely for well over a year but his death still comes as a shock.
“Paul has led the council through a period of enormous regeneration, with many things now coming to fruition before our eyes.
"Keel Square, the New Wear Crossing, the redevelopment of the Vaux site and the International Advanced Manufacturing Park are all legacies of his strong leadership of the council.”
Coun Iain Malcolm, leader of South Tyneside Council, said: “Paul and I were both elected leaders in 2008 and worked extremely closely together forging a working relationship that saw Sunderland and South Tyneside partner for a City Deal which is delivering a new Manufacturing Park north of Nissan.
"Its future success and the jobs that will be created there will be forever his legacy.
“He had a genuine passion for the region, and his commitment to achieving the best for Wearside is legendary.
"No regional leaders’ meeting was complete without Paul raising new projects and initiatives he wanted to see supported for Sunderland.
“Whether it was as regional chair of the combined authority, a member of the national executive of the Local Government Association or internationally as a member of the EU Committee of Regions, Paul defended our region’s interests and in his no-nonsense way made clear what support he felt the North East required.
“But Paul was also a family man, and I know he enjoyed relaxing with his wife and family - my prayers go to them at this sad time.
“They have lost Paul, our region has lost a champion, and I have lost a dear friend.”