Statement from Head of Paid Service for NECA, Helen Golightly:

“It is with sadness and great thanks that we recognise the huge contribution Councillor Paul Watson made during his years in public service, committed to enhancing the lives of people in Sunderland and across the North East. He worked tirelessly, driven by his passion for social and economic betterment for all.

Paul’s dedication to the residents and businesses in Sunderland and the North East deserves to be celebrated. He will be sadly missed and our thoughts remain with his family, friends and colleagues at this very sad time.”

Cllr Watson became Chair of the North East Combined Authority (NECA) in 2016.

NECA is composed of Durham County Council, Gateshead Council, Newcastle City Council, Northumberland County Council, North Tyneside Council, South Tyneside Council, and Sunderland City Council.

The North East Combined Authority will select a new Chair in due course.