The people who will champion the case for the North East on the vital issues of transport, infrastructure, skills and the economy have been appointed.
Following a meeting of the North East Leadership Board (NELB) it has been revealed that the Leaders of Newcastle, Northumberland and Sunderland councils will steer the work streams underpinning the priorities for the new Combined Authority (CA).
The LA7 group, consisting of Durham County Council, Gateshead Council, Newcastle City Council, North Tyneside Council, South Tyneside Council, Northumberland County Council and Sunderland City Council, put together a powerful case for the region to have devolved powers to stimulate economic growth, job creation, skills development and improved transport links.
Consultation demonstrated support for a Combined Authority for the area, in particular from the business sector including the LEP and Chamber of Commerce as well as many other partner organisations. This new body will not replace any existing local authority.
The date for the necessary legislation to be considered by parliament is expected shortly.
In preparation for this, the NELB, which is Chaired by Councillor Simon Henig (Leader, Durham County Council), has appointed two Vice Chairs who will be Councillor Mick Henry of Gateshead and Norma Redfearn, Mayor of North Tyneside.
In addition, Councillor Nick Forbes (Newcastle) will lead on matters involving transport, Councillor Paul Watson (Sunderland) will lead on matters involving economic development and regeneration and Councillor Grant Davey (Northumberland) will lead on matters relating to employability and inclusion.
Chair of the NELB, Councillor Simon Henig, said: “We are very clear about our priorities, which are making improvements to our transport infrastructure, attracting greater economic growth and boosting employability and skills.
“It is essential we play to our strengths and create the best possible opportunities for our businesses and residents. This is achieved best by working together and these appointments are an important step in preparing for this crucial opportunity.
“We now look forward to the necessary legal process being completed and to launching as soon as it is possible.”
Speaking after the meeting Councillor Grant Davey, said: “Skills and training are major issues and key challenges facing the North East. I’m looking forward to working with the other councils to help bring a greater focus on creating the best possible conditions for growth in jobs, investment and living standards. I want to help develop the skills needed by people right across the North East and to better understand the needs and demands of local employers.”
As Transport lead, Councillor Nick Forbes said: “Good quality transport is vital for the quality of life, job opportunities and decent neighbourhoods across the North East. And our success in the global economy depends critically on our connections within and beyond the UK. Our Combined Authority for the first time brings together a transport system serving more than two million people, with a great ambition to connect our communities. We will look to deliver an ambitious manifesto for transport, for a world-class network fit for a successful future.”
Councillor Paul Watson, said: “The economy remains the first among equals for the North East, and the Combined Authority will promote the region at home and abroad as a place for trade and inward investment. Through innovation and growth clusters, and with a focus on high value R&D across sectors where the North East already has a competitive advantage, we will build on the recent North East Independent Economic Review with an ambitious, evidence-based plan for regional economic growth.”
The leaders are shown seated (left to right) Cllr Paul Watson (Sunderland), Cllr Simon Henig (Durham) and Mayor Norma Redfearn (North Tyneside); standing (left to right) Cllr Grant Davey (Northumberland), Cllr Nick Forbes (Newcastle), Cllr Iain Malcolm (South Tyneside) and Cllr Mick Henry (Gateshead).