THE push for a North-East super council will continue despite one authority’s reluctance to take part, the man who would be its leader said today (Monday, January 13).
Sunderland City Council has said it will not join six other councils in the bid for a region-wide authority - responsible for the economy, jobs and transport - until the implications of the move are clearer.
The council’s Labour leader Paul Watson said that Sunderland cannot agree to the move until details such as the new authority’s powers and funding are settled.
The Labour leader of Durham County Council, Simon Henig, chairman of the North East Leadership Board in-waiting, has said he believes the region needs a strong voice to get the most from an economic recovery centred on London.
And he said today (Monday, January 13) that there was still time to get unanimous support for the new authority, which would exist alongside Durham, Northumberland, Sunderland, Newcastle, Gateshead North Tyneside and South Tyneside councils.
He said: “We all recognise the importance of working together to promote jobs and growth and to give the region a 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.
“We have been particularly grateful for the considerable support for these plans shown by the local business community – notably the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and the Chamber of Commerce – and by many other partner organisations and members of the public.
“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 to achieve this.”
Reponding to Coun Watson's doubts, North East Chamber of Commerce’s chief executive James Ramsbotham, said: “Local authorities risk letting this area down badly by failing to show the required unity and leadership to take our economy forward.
“Too many times parochial politics have got in the way of important developments for our regional economy and this must not happen now.”
The only existing combined authority, in Greater Manchester, has been given control of about £1.2bn of Government spending.
The Government has been consulting on plans for a similar body in this region, which would require an Act of Parliament.