As devolution talks continue, the North East council leaders and elected mayor have confirmed that the regional business sector has a key role to play.

Members of the North East Combined Authority last week agreed to move to the next stage of negotiations with government following positive discussions on Friday.

And they have underlined their commitment to ensuring key stakeholders – in particular the business community – will have a major part in driving forward the region’s economic development and regeneration.

Cllr Simon Henig, Chair of the North East Combined Authority, said: “In order to deliver our commitment to more and better jobs, the influential voice of the business community will be critical.

“We will work together to determine arrangements within the region, which would reflect any new responsibilities for the combined authority and ensure the private sector is able to influence and advise decision-making in the region, through a close relationship with business representative bodies, including the North East Chamber of Commerce, Confederation of British Industry, Institute of Directors, Federation of Small Businesses and others.”

The negotiations are around the potential for devolution of powers, funding and responsibilities relating to the economy, investment, transport, jobs and skills.

An agreement would represent a major change to the way in which decisions affecting the North East are made.