Councillor Paul Watson became Leader of the Council in May 2008, after previously serving as Deputy Leader since May 2006.

Now, through his blog, he aims to communicate directly with you to give an insight into what is happening in Sunderland as well as the issues and challenges that face the city. With so much going on in the city, he wants to keep you informed about how much work the council is doing but also wants to hear from you.

This is your chance to have your say so please feel free to get in touch.

Welcome to my blog.

Further to my last blog, where I talked about Sunderland having secured a 'city deal' with the Government meaning investment in the city's economic growth, I'm delighted to announce that this week we will see the establishment of a Combined Authority for the Durham, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear area.

I think I've mentioned previously that, for some time, the seven councils in the area have been working towards this and, last summer, submitted a joint proposal to the Government.

Since then it has gone through all of the required legislative and consultation processes and elected members and officers from each of the councils have come together to work on the detail of what it will mean to have the Combined Authority and what it will do.
It has not been an easy journey at times, as we needed to be absolutely certain that it would bring clear benefits to the whole of the area and genuinely help to boost its economic growth - not just add another layer of bureaucracy which I know was a concern for a number of residents and businesses.

As the Combined Authority will by no means replace the individual local authorities (they will continue to deliver and enable the majority of services to communities), it is vital that it is a 'new breed' of authority adding significant value to our individual efforts on economic development and regeneration.

I am very happy, therefore, that we have been able to work through all of the issues we needed to resolve, which in its own right has been a great test bed for future working and decision making. Importantly, it also means that we have a clear strategy and aims - working alongside the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and other partners - for supporting the development of a functional and successful economy in our part of the region.

To this end, the Combined Authority will focus initially on skills, transport and investment - the key things that will help accelerate growth, creating jobs and opportunities that are accessible to local people.

I'm really looking forward to being a member of the Combined Authority's Board and to ensuring that investment, new jobs and all sorts of opportunities take shape in the near future for Sunderland residents and businesses and will of course provide updates on progress through my blog.

Cllr Paul Watson